Belen Jesuit's soccer team made history last season.
Not only did the Wolverines win their first state title in the program's history, but the Class 4A team was one of three Dade County teams to bring home state titles for the first time in Dade boys' high school soccer history.
Belen Jesuit, one of two Dade teams to finish the season undefeated, won the state title with a 5-2 victory over Naples Gulf Coast to finish the season with a 27-0-2 record and No. 8 national ranking.
The Wolverines defeated their five state playoff opponents by a combined score of 20-4 and would like to repeat as state champions this year despite losing 19 players including six starters.
"We realize that everyone is targeting us," said veteran head coach Tanger Mendonca starting his 16th year as a coaching including the last ten with the Wolverines. His coaching record at Belen Jesuit is 149-32-21. He earned his 100th career win in 2014. The 58-year-old Rio de Janeiro native played pro soccer for 16 years in Brazil and Venezuela.
"The pressure is always part of it because you care to do the best that you can," Mendonca said. "The team just needs to work harder with more focus and dedication."
Returning for the Wolverines are senior midfielder Mateus Tordin; junior forward Francisco Castano; junior goalkeeper Alejandro Pujals, one of the county's best; senior midfielder Francesco Armstrong; junior midfielder Juan Felipe Pereira; and junior defender Javan Rice.
Belen Jesuit had come close but could not clinch a title until last year.
"There was a great sense of responsibility and commitment with the players and program to win a state title for the school," Mendonca said.
"We had a highly technical team. The desire to be champion was motivated by previous years of reaching even higher. They had a moral obligation and sentimental reason with my mother's passing to be state champions."
Belen Jesuit plays one of the county's toughest schedules. In addition to its tough district opponents, Belen Jesuit plays Archbishop McCaarthy and Bishop Kenny and will compete in the Carrollwood Tournament.
"This year's team is very young," Mendonca said. "There is a lot of learning going on."
Belen Jesuit is joined by returning state champions Ransom Everglades and Scheck Hillel.
"Miami-Dade is highly competitive and blessed with many nationalities playing in one area," Mendonca said.
Ransom Everglades returns as defending 2A state champion. The Raiders are led by returnees Michael Colonna, a senior forward who had 24 goals and 16 assists and senior forward Alex Stuart, who had 21 goals and nine assists. Seniors J.J. Arteaga, Juan Rizo-Patron and Antonio Ferrer also returns.
Standing in the Raiders way could be Gulliver Prep with 18 players returning. The team, led by Truman Gelnovatch and Santiago Burgos, has both depth and talent.
Scheck Hillel, returning as 1A state champions for the first time in the program's history, graduated its top seniors including leading scorer Netty Silberman and is rebuilding with a young lineup of players.
BOYS TO WATCH
American: Samir Lopez.
Archimedean: David Cuitiva, Michael Villegas, Jourdan Zojaji, Juan Lopez, Robert Arias, Alejandro Paneque.
Belen Jesuit: Mateus Tordin, Alejandro Pujals, Francisco Castano, Francesco Armstrong, Juan Felipe Pereira, Javan Rice.
Braddock: Sebastian Popgaetz, Ubaldo Argudin, Santi Garcia, Mathias Gonzalez, Roni Angel, Anthony Lopez.
Columbus: Daniel Mayorga, Eduardo Velasco, Kevin Youmans, Pierre Denis, Gabriel Saavedra.
Coral Reef: Austen Maysonet, Patrick Munoz, Jonathan Smith, Daniel Perez, Thomas Cora, Elias Alvarez.
Doral: Owen Green, Felipe Ospina, Josue Roldan, Juan Castano, Andre Zabala.
Ferguson: Piero Carreras, Jose Garcia, David Anaya, Santiago Esparza, Robert Ore, Allan Jarquin, Erikk Ordonez, Carlos Veintemilla, Emanuel Salamanca.
Gulliver Prep: Truman Gelnovatch, Lucas Massolo, Gabriel Melor, Santiago Burgos.
LaSalle: Marcus Cordon, Felipe Batista, David Medeiros.
Mast Academy: Valentin Sabella, Eli Knezevich, Teo Papazian.
Mater Academy: Isaac Banegas, Martin Garcia, Alvaro Zapata, David Espantoso, Juan Aguirre.
Miami Beach: Lucas Arellano, Josue Aguilar, Tomas Iglesias, Marc Amores, Gabriel Suarez.
Miami Country Day: Diego Oropeza, Khalil Winder, Matias Marine, Anthony Cervone, Michael McPherson.
Miami Jackson: Kevin Caballero, Pablo Medina, Nilson Henriquez.
Palmer Trinity: Andrew Watson, Miguel Sierra, Klever Rosales, Nicholas Montana, Alberto Franceschi, Nicholas Ludwig.
Palmetto: Diego Murino, Nicholas Diaz, Jared Hale, Marcos Young.
Ransom Everglades: Michael Colonna, Alex Stuart, J.J. Arteaga, Juan Rizo-Patron, Antonio Ferrer.
SLAM Charter: Nick Garcia, Arlen Navarro, Luis Becerra, Dario Calderon, Edward Montoya.
South Dade: Damien Sanchez, Christopher Roye, Faustino Yanes, Julian Urrea, Rogelio Rodriguez, Ivan Sotel.
Terra: Stephen Chang, Robert Fourqurean, Sebastian Ayllon, Jose Vega-Lopez.
Westminster Christian: Dylan Petrucci, Jeremy Hewett, Nico Lopez, Sean Victoria, Renzo Brambilla.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 5A: Boca Raton
Class 4A: Belen Jesuit
Class 3A: Ponte Vedra
Class 2A: Ransom Everglades
Class 1A: Scheck Hillel
Dec. 5, Ferguson at South Dade, 3:30 p.m.
Dec. 9, Mater Academy at Belen Jesuit, 3:30 p.m.
Dec. 9-10, Ransom Everglades Soccer Tournament
Dec. 12, Doral Academy at Belen Jesuit, 3:30 p.m.
Dec. 14, Gulliver Prep at American Heritage, 6 p.m.
Dec. 16, Belen Jesuit vs. Sunset at Kendall Soccer Park, 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 19, Ferguson at Coral Reef, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 4, South Florida Heat at Scheck Hillel, 7 p.m.
Jan. 6, Ransom Everglades at Pine Crest, 6:45 p.m.
Jan. 7, Bishop Kenny at Belen Jesuit, noon
Jan. 11, Sagemont at Scheck Hillel, 7 p.m.
Jan. 12, Scheck Hillel at St. Brendan, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 12-14, Montverde Tournament (Tampa Prep, Berkeley Prep)
Jan. 14, American Heritage at LaSalle, 11 a.m.
Jan. 16-19, GMAC Tournament
Jan. 17, Doral Academy at Gulliver Prep, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 18, LaSalle at Belen Jesuit, 3:30 pm.
Jan. 23-28, District tournaments
Feb. 2, Region tournament quarterfinals
Feb. 7, Region tournament semifinals
Feb. 10, Region tournament finals
Feb. 15-18, State Championships
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