The Sandcrabs graduated one of the most accomplished senior classes in school history last season. But some believe this year's team will be even better.
When Seabreeze soccer player Chase Doucette walked off the field at Spec Martin Stadium following the Sandcrabs’ 3-0 loss to American Heritage in the Class 3A FHSAA Boys Soccer State Championship on Feb. 23, he felt different.
That feeling has persisted leading up to the start of the Sandcrabs’ 2019-20 season, and it’s fueled him to become a better player.
“Losing that game changed me as a soccer player,” Doucette said. “It’s made me work harder. When we make it to that stage again, we need to win.”
The Sandcrabs graduated one of their most talented senior classes in recent memory. Cameron Bowling, Nate Thompson, Connor Rioux, Benjamin Hartsell and Will Crotty were part of a class that led the Sandcrabs to three-straight state championship appearances, winning one title.
They’re gone now, but Seabreeze’s second-year head coach, Eli Freidus, believes this year’s team may be even better than the previous one.
“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “But we’ve got a really good group.”
This is in part due to Seabreeze’s excellent junior varsity program, which currently features 24 players.
“Those guys have been overshadowed by that last senior class,” Freidus said. “But these kids are good, and they’re hungry. It’s their time. I’m really excited about this team.”
However, there are plenty of returners from last season’s team who will be placed in prominent roles this season. Michael Hanna, Frazer Gilman and Spruce Creek transfer Chance Shamlou provide great goal-scoring ability. And Doucette, Ryan Betau, Christian Rodriguez and Tanner Barnwell will continue to anchor the defense.
“Nothing will compare to the chemistry and the love that everybody had on that team last year,” Doucette said. “But they started from somewhere, and I think we can do the same.”
The goal this season, as with every season for Seabreeze, is to return to DeLand for a shot at the state title.
How will the Sandcrabs, who opened the season with a 8-0 victory over Belleview the night of Thursday, Nov. 14, get there?
“We have to set our expectations high,” Barnwell, a team captain, said. “We have to put in the work on and off the field and stay committed. We have to do it all season long.”