Photos by Rich Corozine
Last season was a kind of break-even season for the New Paltz and Highland boys and girls soccer teams. The Highland boys won their first Section 9 title in 17 years; the New Paltz boys — just two seasons removed from their first-ever Section 9 title — had one of their worst seasons and failed to qualify for Sections; the Highland girls did have their worst season in over 20 years and failed for the first time to make Sections; and the New Paltz girls kept improving and got bumped from Sections in a shootout in the quarter-final round.
With great patience and a firm knowledge of her players, Class B Coach-of-the-Year Terri Cilento punctuated her first year as varsity coach by winning the Highland boys’ first Section title in 17 years — and first in Class B (all the others were as a Class C team). It wasn’t easy. The Huskies finished just above .500 at season’s end, but then got hot in the playoffs and won the title with a 5-0 win over Onteora. Highland’s season ended with a 2-0 loss to uber-speedy Rye Neck in a State opening round game under the lights in Middletown, finishing the season at 11-7.
“It’s going to be very hard to repeat, we lost a lot of solid players,” says Cilento, referring to the loss to graduation of Class B Offensive-Player-of-the-Year, midfielder Joe Dolan, and Defensive-Player-of-the-Year, goalkeeper Sebastian Vargas. Also lost were veteran starters Ian Bogdanowicz and Ben Ratick, both of whom scored in the rout of Onteora. “Plus Class B is very tough, and our Division (of the MHAL) is all A schools, so just getting to Sections will be difficult,” adds Cilento. One of the real pluses for Cilento is that she has coached all these players (she was the JV and modified coach through the years) since they were five years old. “Before they even had teeth,” laughs Cilento. But whatever the drop off in talent might be, “there’s no change in attitude,” says Cilento. “Our chemistry and togetherness has carried over from last season.”
The core group of returning players are senior midfielder Christian Cruz, senior midfielder/forward Alfred Worrad, senior defender Ryan Sorbello, senior midfielder/forward Colin Ivitch, senior midfielder Attilio Crimi-Varoli, twin juniors Matt and Andrew Valentino — a defender and midfielder/forward respectively — and senior forward Max Cutugno. Senior Paul Rhodes will be stepping into the goalkeeper job. Cilento is also looking for big contributions from juniors Kyle Crimi (midfield) and David Wood (midfield/defense).
The Highland boys open the defense of their Section 9 title with Division 2 foe Marlboro on Wednesday, September 2 at 5 p.m. at Highland High School. The Huskies are at Division 2 foe New Paltz on Thursday, September 3 at 4 p.m.
New Paltz boys
Last year was a disappointment for coach Stu Robinson and the New Paltz boys. Two years removed from their (some say) shocking Section 9 Class A title drive (with a monumental 2-0 victory over highly-favored and perennial champion Goshen in the title game), the Huguenots just haven’t been able to put together another magical season. Finishing at 5-11 New Paltz missed Sections for the first time in a decade.
“We were a young team last year and never really jelled,” says Robinson, “plus there weren’t enough bodies to have a JV team, so that set us back a bit…That’s different this year: we have a JV team and we’re returning a solid group that I’m sure will come together this year.”
Losing midfielder Ryan Pinto, defender Ryan Macaluso and forward Carlos Cuellar to graduation (and with solid junior defender Ben Cuppett not returning to the team) will hurt, but New Paltz does return top playmaker senior Will Cymbal; junior defender/midfielder Otto Richards; and senior goalkeeper Will Kay Rounding out the core returners will be sophomore midfielder/forward Oscar Kay, junior defender Vince Baresi and junior forward Isaac Thomas. Robinson has high hopes for a couple newcomers in freshmen midfielder/forwards: Elijah Tamarchenko and Jonathon Claudio. “We have a couple other young kids that may make the varsity, so we’ll see how that shakes out.”
“We’ll be improved, no doubt about that, but we need to produce to have something to show for our efforts,” adds Robinson.
The New Paltz boys open with Highland at home on Thursday, September 3 at 4 p.m.
Well, he’s back…once again. In a storied career as Highland girls’ soccer coach, Pete Watkins is returning to the sideline after two years away. And all Watkins brings with him is 248 wins in 22 years and 10 Section 9 titles, the last a Class B championship five years ago when he returned to the sidelines the first time.
“I love doing this and I’m happy to be back,” says Watkins, who took the job back when second-year coach Alissa Morano (who was a top scorer for Watkins some ten years ago) decided to not return. “I didn’t want to bump anyone, but I told Frank (Alfonso, the Highland athletic director) that if no one else applied for it, that I’d like to try it again…and here I am,” laughs Watkins. Lucky Highland.
And Watkins finds that almost all of last season’s 4-12 team is returning, a year older and hopefully better. But he’s not worried. “I just have to get them to believe in my system and then in themselves,” says Watkins, whose philosophy has always been to score first and then shut them out the rest of the way. “I’m trying to make them see that when a team scores on us that they should feel insulted out there. It’ll take time, I’m still experimenting with the positions because I’ve always thought it’s better to have players that can move around, play different positions, be more versatile, just makes us a better all-around team.”
Leading the way back to a winning season and Section 9 play will be a strong core of senior midfielder/forward Dani McGrath, senior midfielder/forward Michaela Raffaele, freshman forward/midfielder/defender Teresa Mazzella, eighth-grader Brooke Harris (midfielder/forward) and senior defender/midfielder Kate Benicase. Those players plus returnees senior Allie Rozzi (defender/goalkeeper), senior Julia Purdy (defender), senior Celina Macaleer (defender), senior Tori Capabianco (goalkeeper/defender) and senior Alexis Rivera (defender/goalkeeper). High potential varsity newcomers are sophomore forward Emily Peterson, sophomore forward, midfielder/defender Sharee Mills, junior Amanda Darmochwal (midfielder/defender), junior Caitlyn Macaleer (midfielder) and junior Mirabel Ortiz (midfielder).
“I tell the girls three things,” says Watkins, “one, to be better at the end of the season than at the beginning; two, beat the teams you should beat; and three, have fun out there. I know it’ll be tough, what with the Division (2 of the MHAL) we’re in. But we’ll be competitive, that I can say for sure.”
The Highland girls open the season at home against Marlboro on Wednesday, September 2 at 7 p.m.
New Paltz girls
Could this be the year? Last year seemed like a warm-up for this one for the very talented New Paltz girls, as the girls went 10-4 before losing 2-1 to Saugerties in a Section 9 quarterfinal shootout. Losing only goalkeeper Mikayla Cochrane to graduation, it all seems to be there waiting for the Huguenots. But coach Joanne Metzger is still trying to be cautious.
“We’re a very skilled team, and like last year I feel we have the chemistry to do some good things this season, but we do have to jell together out there. They’re a great bunch, talented, unselfish, like I said, a good team and we’ll see how far we can go.”
That’s coach shorthand for “we’re loaded.” But since New Paltz is an A school, the road to a Section 9 title will have to go through Cornwall, Goshen and/or Red Hook, the perennial contenders for the Class A title. There are some similarities to the great New Paltz teams of 15 years ago, the teams that won three straight Section 9 titles under Keith Walker, who now coaches the Marlboro girls (another Class A contender). “Like that group they have to know how to win,” says Metzger, who was the travel coach for that team and all the others in-between until now. “I’m hoping to find out this year.”
The lineup of returning players is formidable, with seniors Allie Jacone (midfield), Ala Hekking (outside mid) and Kate Demskie (defensive mid) leading the way, and joined by juniors Fiona Weinstein (midfield), Bridget Barry (defense), Emily Denno (outside mid/defense), Alexis Garcia (defense), returning transfer student Carsissa DiValentino (forward), Lia Kucera (forward), Klaire Branche (defense), Lauren Martinez (midfield), Rebecca Mele (defense) and Jennie Mele (forward). Returning sophomores are Erin Metzger (forward) and Veronica Hill (outside mid). And goalkeeper? That’s up in the air between junior’s Lauren Torres and Jamie Macaluso, both up from JV’s.
So, this could be the year for the New Paltz girls. They’re good enough to do it…but we’ll just have to wait and see. The New Paltz girls open the season at Red Hook on Friday, September 4 at 4 p.m.