SEMINOLE — During his several decades of coaching youth and high school soccer, there isn’t much Rick Masi hasn’t seen.
The former Seminole Strikers coach who has been head coach of the Seminole High School boys soccer team since the early 1990s has led his teams to victory at all levels, even capturing the state championship in 2003.
But this past season saw a first for the veteran coach. Both he and his son, Ryan Masi, helped lead their respective teams — SHS boys and Indian Rocks Christian School’s girls — to the state tournament.
“I’m pretty sure this is the first time you’ve had a father and son coaching two different teams in state competition,” Rick said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
What’s even more interesting, he said, is that this is Ryan’s first year coaching.
Ryan grew up playing soccer and played at SHS. His father only coached him briefly at Seminole, though, taking over the Warhawks boys’ team for his son’s senior year.
Though he didn’t play soccer in college, Ryan’s love of the game persevered, and he went on to coach his twin daughters at Florida Celtic. Many of the girls his daughter played with at the club level attended Indian Rocks Christian.
In recent years, the longtime coach at the school, Rich Hayward, has dealt with health issues due to complications from diabetes and even had his foot amputated. Knowing that the 2018-19 soccer season could be challenging, he decided to build a strong team of assistant coaches around him. He invited Ryan to join this team because of his relationship with many of the players through club soccer.
“I knew coming into the season that physically this year I was down,” Hayward said. “So I brought in four healthy people and got them to do all the things I couldn’t do.”
His other assistant coaches included former players Alexis Gate and OliviaRoss Johnson, as well as goalie coach Joel Avitia.
Indian Rocks had “a really, really, really young” roster this past season, Ryan said. Several starters were still in the eighth grade, and there were several freshman who made up the core of the team, he said. There was only one starting senior.
Despite their age, he “knew the group was going to be talented” even during tryouts. Early in the season was rocky, though, because they didn’t have a dedicated goalie. They put Jayde Albaugh, who normally plays forward, in the net. It took a few games for her to find her rhythm and confidence as a goalie, but she shined in her new role, Ryan said.
“She really stepped up,” he said. “There was a such a learning curve and she just kept getting better and better as the season went on. She’s a real MVP.”
By the middle of the season, they began winning the majority of their games. Hayward saw the potential for the team to take the district championships and move on to the state tournament.
“I told [him] that we have a really talented group, but I think we’re a year or two away from being able to make a run at state,” Ryan said. “But he was right.”
Hayward said, “I knew we were going to be a good team. So I was not surprised by how far we went.”
They lost the Jan. 31 district finals 2-0 to Calvary Christian, but still qualified for the state tournament. They beat Seffner Christian 3-1 Feb. 5 and then faced off against Calvary Christian again Feb. 8, this time defeating them 1-0 in overtime.
They made it into the Elite 8 and found themselves playing Canterbury in Fort Myers Feb. 12. They won that game 2-1 to land in the semi-finals, where they ultimately lost 6-0 to St. Johns Country Day in Orange Park. They ended the season with a record of 13-7-1 and going farthest in the state tournament than they ever have before.
“And we’re only going to get better,” Ryan said. “I never expected to make it this far my first year. But it’s a young team and we’re keeping our core nucleus for a few years. We’re going to remain competitive.”
Seminole enjoyed a strong season from the beginning, ending with a 19-4-3 record. They also lost in the district finals, though, losing 4-1 to East Lake. They also still qualified for the state tournament, though.
On Feb. 6, the Warhawks defeated Bloomingdale 4-1 in Valrico, and beat East Lake three days later to make it into the Elite 8.
Rick found himself in Fort Myers twice during the tournament — once to support Ryan and the Indian Rocks Christian girls’ team and a second time to lead Seminole boy’s to a 4-3 win over Fort Myers.
Ultimately, though, they lost 2-0 in the semi-finals to Fort Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale. The first tally against Seminole was an own goal “that never should have happened,” he said. The team fought hard, he added, but Fort Lauderdale’s goalie made a number of “brilliant saves.”
“Our boys played their hearts out. They were really let down, but I’m very proud of them,” Rick said.
He also expects Seminole to remain competitive next season.