When the boys soccer season resumes in the new year, just a few weeks will remain before district tournament action begins. That means for Joe Raguso and his Weeki Wachee team, time is running out to prepare for the chance at more postseason success.
“I want everyone to work together, bond with each other and just look for everyone. I want myself to do great, better than I usually do,” Raguso said. “Last year when we lost in the district final, we were all like, ‘Dang.’ We wanted to be the first district champion in our school and we were all heartbroken about it. But we knew we were still moving on to regionals.
“No one (at the school) had won a district until this year with the volleyball team. Good for them, I’m happy for them. Now it’s our turn to come out this year, work hard, and when we come back off of break we’ve got to come out hard.”
The junior forward has made his second varsity campaign a strong one. He leads the Hornets with 12 goals, matching his total as a sophomore. “I think mostly for Joe it’s been a lot of maturity from last season, and then working with the squad of players that we have he’s just in the right place at the right time and able to put the finishing touch to finish those goals,” Weeki Wachee head coach Shane Tarbox said.
“The mental game, making sure I make better choices on the field and off the field, and keeping my head in it,” Raguso said of where he’s improved. “My team picks me up. After I make a bad shot or a bad pass, and me sulking, they pick me up.”
In 2014-15, the Hornets advanced to regionals for the first time, finishing as the district runner-up to Nature Coast, 1-0, before losing in the regional quarterfinals to Sunlake, 7-1. It was Raguso who scored the lone goal in that regional contest.
So far, Raguso noted that the current season has been up and down for the Hornets, sitting at 7-4-3 overall while finishing fourth in Class 3A, District 7 with a 5-4-3 mark. They’ve had difficulty with the top three in the district standings – Pasco, Nature Coast and Springstead – going a combined 0-4-2.
“Our losses are from us beating ourselves, not working hard,” Raguso said. “We need to score more goals. We’ve got to make better opportunity passes, open up more, stuff like that.
“I’ve got to try to keep my head in the game. I can’t get mad at anyone else. Pick everyone up. Make a bad pass, move on. Keep moving forward.”
Raguso is relatively new to the pitch, getting into club soccer toward the end of eighth grade. Before that he played hockey, but grew tired of having to travel to Tampa to play. Raguso gained exposure to soccer through his father, who played collegiately and brought him along while participating in men’s leagues.
“Hockey is a way tougher sport than soccer, but soccer is way faster. You’ve got to get endurance, off the ball you just keep running,” Raguso said. “Looking around on the field, side to side, has helped me out a lot, playing soccer from hockey. Cause you’ve always got to check to make sure no one’s on the other side of you or behind you. You’ve got to look quick. Vision on the field has helped me out a lot.”
Now Raguso wants to follow his father by playing in college and has dreams of playing professionally.
“He’s got a lot of potential. We’ve got a couple of players that have the potential to play at the next level, the college level,” Tarbox said. “Moving into his senior year, he should just keep growing and be one of the leading scorers on the team and in the county.”
There’s still time to sort through college choices, so the focus at the moment remains on finishing off this season in the best way possible. “We’ve got to come out, better pass off the ball. We have to definitely shoot more. One goal, two goals a game won’t cut it. Beating teams 2-1, 3-2 won’t cut it at all,” Raguso said. “It’ll (the break) probably help us. A good reset for us to go off with our families, have a good Christmas break, come back and get into practice working really hard. Come out and get a district championship.
“Our team knows that the only team that can beat us is ourselves. If we don’t work hard, we’ll let other teams score goals on us. We just need to come out hard. I want us to all work hard for that district championship and move on hopefully to states. We want to go all the way this year.”