Area boys' soccer coaches optimistic about upcoming season
By Julia Green
The Mountaineers of Andes Central School return a strong core of upperclassmen for the 2009 soccer season, including first-team Delaware League All-Star selection Josh Bonifacic and honorable mention Delaware League All-Star honoree Peter Fabrykiewicz from last year’s squad. Bonifacic, a senior, served as the starting goalkeeper for the Mountaineers last year while Fabrykiewicz, a striker, tallied 16 goals on the season to finish as Andes’ leading scorer. The Mountaineers lost seniors Ethan Berghammer and Justin Weaver to graduation.
“Those are statistically the key returners, but my whole squad is basically returning, which is good in terms of experience,” said Andes Head Coach Adam VanValkenburg, who is in his fourth year at the helm of the Andes squad.
Seven seniors return from last year’s squad, which went 7-6 overall and 5-5 in the league, including Bonifacic, sweeper Cody Ruff, defender Nate Tuch, midfielder Corey Barrett, outside back Justin Mohr, midfielder James Litaker, and defender Russell Koronowski.
“Defensively, I feel we’ll be really strong this year,” said VanValkenburg. “We’re returning our entire defensive line and they’re all seniors, so we’re going to be very strong there.
Those seniors are complemented by a class of three juniors: Fabrykiewicz, forward Eric Reed and midfielder Ian Wright, who bring some experience to the Mountaineers’ offense.
“Ethan [Berghammer] was a big loss in terms of his scoring and leadership, but I feel we have players capable of stepping in and being strong leaders and finishers,” VanValkenburg said. “And returning Peter, our leading scorer, is a big asset as well.”
Sophomores Sage Beemer, who plays in the midfield and up front, and forward Eddie Mackay and freshman Ben Houshmand round out the Mountaineers’ roster.
And, though the Andes squad may be small on numbers, it boasts a depth of experience that VanValkenburg is counting on: every player save first-year Houshmand has seen varsity playing time.
“Having a small squad, the players get a lot of time developing their skills and excelling and building through the years,” he said. “This year is going to be key for us in that, of the five seniors, two of them have five years of varsity experience and the rest have four years on the varsity level.
“Our expectations are high,” he added. “We’re really looking forward to this season, the season we feel we’ve been building to, and our returning players are going to be a key aspect for us because they have game experience. Now’s the time to put it all together and build off the success we had last year and carry it into this year.”
One challenge that could face the Mountaineers, however, is one to which they are no stranger: numbers. With a roster of just 13 players, staying healthy will be crucial.
“Our issue is always numbers,” VanValkenburg said. “Injuries are common in the game and they always hurt the small teams more than the big teams. That could be a key issue we have to deal with, but I think we’re doing a good job in conditioning and preparing the boys to play. Their hard work should pay off in that aspect.
“They’re working hard, and they’re really optimistic on how the season’s going to go, so it should be a lot of fun for us.”
The Mountaineers open the season at home on Wednesday, Sept. 9 against Hunter.
Margaretville Blue Devils
The Margaretville Blue Devils return all but three starters from a battle-tested squad that won the Upper Delaware League last year and advanced to the Section IV championship before falling to South Kortright.
Despite losing those three – Delaware League All-Star first team selection Josh Smith, second team selection Steve Amundsen, and honorable mention honoree Guy Nobile – Margaretville Head Coach Jeremey Marks is confident in the experience of his team.
“There are six seniors that have been with me for four years, and I feel like we’re all on the same page,” Marks said. “I can rely on those guys to provide leadership and help the younger guys learn our philosophy and how we do things. And personally, as a coach, it’s nice to see how those six have grown not only as soccer players but as student-athletes.”
Margaretville boasts a roster of 27, including 15 upperclassmen and 17 players who played varsity last year. Ten newcomers round out the roster. And, as expected with a roster of 27, depth is a key strength that Marks anticipates will be a key factor for the Blue Devils’ season.
“I have 12 guys with two or more years of varsity experience, so our experience is a big strength for us,” he said. “Each year we’ve progressed and gotten a little further, and I can kind of sense that there’s a common goal among the group – I think everyone is on the same page in terms of what we’re trying to do day in and day out. And we’re not looking ahead – we take one day at a time and we try to get better that day, and we’ll take one game at a time.”
Senior goalkeeper Brian Faulkner will return in the goalmouth for the Blue Devils, with returning defenders Mitch VanKeuren, Jacob Johnson and Patrick O’Connell anchoring the Margaretville defense.
“Brian came on midway through the season last year and did a nice job,” Marks said. “He stepped up in the goal last year. Mitch is going to be providing leadership and experience, directing our defense, being vocal, getting guys in position and keeping guys marked. And Jacob Johnson and Patrick O’Connell are two guys who have had a lot of experience in the back as defenders, so we’re looking for them to step up there.”
The midfield will be led by returners Greg Lehn, Marcus Moore, Abraham Morales and Tyler Smith.
“Greg is a very skilled player, dynamic with the ball,” Marks said. “I’m looking for him to pick up the scoring that Josh Smith had last year. And Marcus, our center midfielder, will be a physical presence, a ball-winner, and distributor. Abraham’s got a really good left foot, and is smart with the ball and a good distributor, and Tyler’s another guy that can go end to end, can win balls and has good speed that can help create for us.”
While the Blue Devils’ offense will undoubtedly notice the absence of Smith, who tallied a large percentage of Margaretville’s goals last season, Marks said he’s looking for a number of players to step up and put the ball in the net.
“I think we’re going to be scoring more by committee,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have one guy who will score a large number of goals. I think we have six or seven guys that have the ability to score goals, and I think that’s one of our strengths: I don’t think you can key in on one guy this year.”
The front line will be counting on some experience, though, from returning players like Cody Fronckowiak, Javier Martinez and Sam Mendoza.
“Cody’s a third-year varsity player, and he’s another one that’s very opportunistic and has scored some big goals for us. Sam is a four-year player who will play up front for us that has a lot of experience, and Javi is a very skilled player who has the ability to create scoring opportunities for himself and others.”
Marks added that the level of competition evident in practice has been another vital element that he’s counting on to contribute to his team’s success this fall.
“With so many guys on the roster, younger guys are doing a nice job challenging the older guys and the older guys are doing a nice job staying positive and instructing the younger guys on our philosophy and on what we’re trying to do, so there’s a healthy give and take there.”
While Marks is confident in his team’s experience, he says that a potential challenge that faces him is motivation.
“A challenge for he is to keep these guys motivated and not thinking they can just step on the field and be successful,” he said. “They have to go out and earn the victory. They have to do the little things necessary to be successful against a given opponent and not take things for granted. I think a challenge is thinking that the success we had last year is just going to happen again without putting the work in and pushing ourselves beyond what we accomplished last year. This is a new year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything.
“We need to pay the price in practice to put ourselves in a position to be successful on game day. Beyond improving every day, that’s what we’re trying to do. One day at a time.”
The Blue Devils open the 2009 season today at 4:30 p.m. at Milford; their home opener is Thursday, Sept. 17 at 4:15 p.m. against Hunter.
“We took a pretty good hit,” said Roxbury Head Coach Tom Faraci, alluding to the six seniors the Roxbury boys’ soccer team lost to graduation last year. One of the six was Ryan Skipper, a first-team Delaware League All-Star selection who tallied 25 goals and four assists for the Rockets. Other key players to depart the Roxbury roster were Owen Sanford and Jamie VanDyke.
The Rockets finished the 2008 season 10-6 overall, falling to Margaretville in the second round of sectional play; from that roster, they return five starters.
“I’ve got my keeper coming back, and he’s been with us since he was a freshman,” Faraci said of starting keeper Garrett Hall.
Hall will be leading a defense peppered with players whose experience Faraci is counting on to set the tone.
“I’ve got Jacob Liberatore returning as our sweeper, and I have Edward Williams coming back and he was one of my backs last year, so the good news is I’ve got some guys back there with some pretty decent experience,” he said. “Garrett had a great season as a goalkeeper last year. He’s definitely been working hard, going to some camps, and he’s really put some time into it. And Jacob really kind of came into his own last year as our sweeper, you could see it from the beginning to the end of the season. He plays with a lot of confidence and makes very few mistakes, so hopefully he’s going to be able to anchor us back there.”
Another returning starter, senior David Clark, will bring experience to the midfield while fellow starter Kyle Ciaravino, a sophomore striker, will lead the forward line.
“Really, if you look at it, we have a returning starter up front and a returning starter in the midfield, so our mids and our strikers are for the most part pretty new,” Faraci said. “David has been kind of a midfielder-slash-defender for the past couple of years. He’s very aggressive as far as winning stuff out of the air, so we’re going to look to him to stabilize the midfield a little bit. He’s off to a goods start, he’s done a good job distributing the ball here, so he’s going to be key for us. And Kyle was a freshman last year but he won that starting spot, so hopefully he’s going to mature a little bit and help us up front.”
Despite having experienced returners to lead each line of the Rockets’ formation, Faraci, who enters his 17th year at the helm of the Roxbury soccer squad, stated that a lack of overall experience will undoubtedly present some challenges to his team as the season progresses.
“We don’t have a ton of guys with a lot of experience, and I think we lost a lot of scoring,” he said. “Between Skipper and Jamie, who had eight or 10 goals, we lost a lot of those guys who really carried us last year. With a new group, these guys are going to have to step up a little bit and see who can put something in the back of the net.”
And, with a roster of only 14, Faraci added that not having big numbers coming off the bench could play a factor for the Rockets as well, particularly late in second halves where fresh legs aren’t readily available.
Still, despite a lack of game-tested veterans, Faraci is pleased by the work ethic and determination of his players.
“The guys are working hard,” he said of his team, who defeated Worcester 2-0 in a scrimmage on Friday. “It was good. It was very constructive, we did some good things, and it was positive. I think defensively that’s going to be one of our strengths, and I’m hoping that we have some fairly decent experience back there and that that’s going to help carry us a little bit. We’re a little bit young in different places, so we need to be able to hold our own back there and give us some confidence as we get into some of these games and give us a feel for what some other people have.”
Still, Faraci said, despite the relative greenness of some of his players, his team’s goals haven’t changed much from last year.
“We always keep that we’d like to give ourselves a chance to get to sectional play, and really we’ve just kind of got to look at every day like we’re going to try to get a little bit better. I know that the Margaretvilles and the Kortrights and all those teams are going to be strong from last year, so we have some work to do to be competitive each night. But our goal is to go out and give ourselves a chance to get into a ball game with these guys.”
The Rockets open the 2009 season tomorrow night against Jefferson at 6 p.m. at the Stamford Mayor’s Cup. Roxbury’s first home game will be against the visiting Rams of South Kortright at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.