To get an inside look at the driving force behind Countryside soccer, step into the gym on Saturday mornings. There, on the basketball court playing pickup hoops is Dave Sica, the Cougars' soccer coach.
Not just playing, but demanding the ball.
"He's a bit of a trash talker," Countryside basketball coach Bob Marinak said. "But it's just a reflection of his desire to win. He comes in here every weekend, playing hard every game."
Sica, who played basketball, soccer and tennis in high school, has guided the Cougars (26-4) to the state semifinals in Class 6A, a year after the team reached the Class 5A semifinals before losing to Lakeland George Jenkins. Last year was a bit of a surprise because of the Cougars' youthfulness, but this squad brought back that experience.
And with Sica at the helm, that meant success was expected and demanded.
"It was instilled in me by my parents," said Sica, who also surfed competitively while at the University of Central Florida. "I don't do anything less than 100 percent, whether it's playing soccer or coaching it or it's raising the most money in a school fundraiser or for a local charity. And I try to get my players to emulate that."
For the most part, the Cougars have, as their wins include two impressive victories over nationally ranked Gaither.
"He demands the best out of us," said junior midfielder Jake Gerlach, who mans the middle of Countryside's 3-5-2 alignment along with sophomore Carl Swann. "Everybody on our team takes pride in giving 100 percent and we expect nothing less."
Sounds like a Sica clone.
Gerlach and Swann are, in fact, examples of what Sica appreciates more about competition than anything else. It's the whole idea of "guts before glory."
In the region final against Gaither, which the Cougars won 2-0, Gerlach and Swann displayed a prime example of doing the dirty work when, after Mike Favero scored two goals in the first 20 minutes, the two moved back to help cover Eddie Ababio and Trent Anderson.
"They do all the hard work," Countryside keeper Jeff Attinella said. "They distribute the ball perfectly, which they did (against Gaither), getting the ball to the outside to set up Mike's goals. And they pick up on defense too. They are the ultimate team players and they make our team click."