The blueprint for 2017-18 says the regular season record will reveal little or nothing about the destiny of the Vero Beach High boys soccer team.
The Indians were a pedestrian 3-3 after dropping a 1-0 decision to American Heritage at the Citrus Bowl last Friday evening, but it would be wise to heed the entire body of work for an understanding of the big picture.
Head coach Christopher Fonehouse knew beforehand that American Heritage would be a strong challenge, however to his way of thinking this was just another pop quiz to prepare his squad for the final exam in January and February. His Soccer 101 course syllabus proved to be masterpiece a year ago.
“I emphasize to the boys that our schedule is extremely tough, but they understand my mentality with reference to the soccer season,” Fonehouse explained. “The most important part of our regular season is the district matches. You have to win those so you can get a good seed in the district tournament. If you take care of the district tournament and go on a five game winning streak, you are the state champion.”
That’s some pretty basic stuff when broken down academically, but it panned out last year on the pitch as well. An underdog team entered the postseason at 4-7-5 before putting the plan into effect. A district championship later finally got them to the .500 mark at 7-7-5. Three more victories and Vero was in the Final Four for the state title. A 1-0 loss in the semis ended the sensational run.
“I know everybody loves to win, but all that matters is winning at the end of the season,” said Fonehouse. “That’s my philosophy. I want to win a state title. In order to do that we compete against the best and take our lumps during the regular season outside the district. If your team has seen high-caliber opponents throughout the season, it doesn’t come as a surprise during the postseason.”
VBHS surged to 2-0 in the district by dispatching Treasure Coast and Palm Beach Gardens earlier on the road. Three district home games remain, starting with Jupiter this week. The Indians host Centennial and Fort Pierce Central in January.
“The team so far has looked decent but we are still a work in progress,” Fonehouse said. “Early on I’m looking for the starting 11 for the latter part of the season in January. I told my players that everybody is fighting for a position. It’s a very competitive atmosphere, but there is no selfishness. The kids enjoy being here and they all get along.
“It’s a good group to work with and the players all have the same ultimate goal – the dream of winning the state title. They believe in the system. To have the right mentality is part of the battle.”
The coach says he will be tweaking the lineup up through next month. Injuries have already hit some upperclassmen, but they are expected back in January. In the interim some younger players will benefit with an increase in playing time and experience.
“We’re solid on defense with Bennett Collins as a three-year starter at center back,” Fonehouse told us. “When we are performing well our midfielders can possess the ball and we do have some strengths up top. We want to possess the ball, build it up from the back, and get our opportunities when pushing forward.
“Collectively if we possess the ball, and we let the ball work instead of the individual, we will be successful as individuals and as a team.
Fonehouse is now in his ninth year as head coach and clearly the first thing he wants is for his guys to possess the ball. There were some other firsts last year. He took the first-ever VBHS boys soccer team to the Final Four. GK Wesley Alexander graduated as the first All-American in program history.
The 12 players returning from the state contender a year ago demonstrated the formula for success. Now it’s a matter of whether the entire 30-man roster can carry that over to this season.
“We now have a target on our backs, not only locally but across the state,” Fonehouse said. “Everyone knows that Vero Beach is a solid program. If we are not at the level we should be, it is going to show in games.
“But they understand what it takes to get there. That’s part of the process with any program. It takes a lot of hard work each and every day – in practice and in games. Once you get there, can you sustain getting there. That’s what we will find out this year.”