The 2015 Kingston High School boys varsity soccer Tigers and their head coach, Dan Franklin, are looking to find a way to improve on last season’s disappointing showing.
The Tigers went 4-12 last season, closing out a rough campaign with a 4-3 loss in late October to crosstown rival John A. Coleman, a senior-night defeat at Dietz Stadium made perhaps more bitter by the fact that the Statesmen hadn’t won a single game all year. The two teams close out their regular seasons against one another this year too, but the Tigers are hoping the matchup will serve as a tuneup for the playoffs rather than the final act in another tough campaign.
A few weekends ago, the Tigers played a pair of scrimmages. The first was against Coleman on Friday night. The second kicked off the following morning when Kingston hosted Monticello. The first whistle blew at 10:30 a.m. on a day when the sticky closeness of summer weather felt like it might just last forever. With the sun beating down on them, the Tigers looked sharp. On offense — and early on it was almost all offense — they pushed the action, looking to find the right player with the right angle. On occasion, Monticello pushed back. In scrimmages, the score doesn’t matter. In scrimmages, teams are tuning up for when the games count, looking for the right players to do the right things on the pitch when it matters most. In their energy and commitment, the Tigers may yet prove to be the surprise of the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Class AA competition.
Kingston will open with three team captains this season: Backfielder Dylan Degasperis and midfielder and striker Abel Flores are seniors, while midfielder Lucas Lopez is a junior. In these three players, the team is led by experience and skill. At the scrimmages, Lopez was vocal during warm-ups, and lightning-quick on the attack. Flores, nursing a foot injury unlikely to impact the regular season, sat out.
Returning seniors include forwards Abdallah Aboueida and Jenier Dario-Martinez; wings Carson Parks and Alexis Salas; midfielder Isaac Villa-Vargas; center backs Elhadj Bah and Troy Thompson; and backs Will Sileo and Brian Williams. Also returing to the varsity squad is junior forward Kevin Fajardo.
New juniors to the varsity team this year are Zach Burns on the wing, midfielder Sean Ryu, back Nick Jansen, and two keepers, John McNutt and Carlos Michaca; Sam Feeney, also a junior, will serve as team manager. Sophomores playing on the varsity team for the first time include forward Isaiah McNabb, midfielder Timmy Ruzzo, center back Eli Conners, and back Isai Villa-Vargas.
McNutt, starting in goal, played in a pair of varsity games last season, and will be counted on to fill the void left by the graduation of Osvaldo Lopez-Arango. The team also lost midfielder Dan Garner, a Class AA All-Section First team selection last year, and forward Babak Namiranian, who is walking on at Virginia Tech this year.
Despite their record last year, the Tigers very nearly made the playoffs in 2014.
“Last year we missed post season play by one game,” said Franklin. “This year our initial goal is to make sections. We have a strong back supported by an agile and creative midfield. We’ll be firing a lot of shots this season, if enough of them happen to find the net, Kingston be in post season play for the first time in this coach’s memory.”
Flores agreed, saying that he believes the team will have to get off to a quick start to be where they want to be when the postseason rolls around.
Lopez said he likes what he’s seen of the team so far.
“We’re pretty strong this year,” he said. “Our chemistry is good, and our passing is getting a lot better. So I think we’re going to be solid this year. I’ve got a strong feeling we’ll make [the playoffs.]”
Lopez said he’s looking at games against Monroe-Woodbury [Sept. 28 and Oct. 20] and Newburgh Free Academy (Sept. 24 and Oct. 16) as crucial.
The Tigers play three of their final four regular season games at home, and Flores said he hopes they’ll benefit from a home-pitch advantage.
“We have supporters,” he said. “The girls’ soccer team comes out. But it’s mostly football that gets the most people. We’re working on it. Maybe we could put some posters and banners up. Social media, maybe. And maybe if we’re winning games more people will come see us.”
So far, in scrimmages and practices, Flores said he likes what he’s seeing of the 2015 Tigers.
“We’re doing good,” he said. “I like the way we’re working together as a team, better than last year. We’re starting to get each other more and play as a team now. We’re playing at game speed, and I’m liking how we’re doing.”
The Tigers will play just two home games at Dietz Stadium: This Saturday, Sept. 12 they’ll host Rondout Valley; and on Friday, Oct. 23 they’ll play Coleman. All other home games will be played at M. Clifford Miller Middle School.