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Soccer

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Victoria Colatosti dribbles the ball downfield. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Seniors Victoria Colatosti and Emily McNelis have led Northport soccer to the finish line.

With a 5-0 win over Walt Whitman Oct. 18, the Tigers tallied their eighth shutout of the season, while finishing undefeated at 14-0 overall and 12-0 in Legaue II.

Emily McNelis moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I cried,” McNelis said. “It’s our last real game. You never know — you could lose in the playoffs, even though we aren’t going to lose. It’s going to be really weird next year not being on this team and playing on this field. Every minute counts.”

The Tigers made every minute count Wednesday with a balanced attack. Sporting two of Suffolk County’s Top 10 scorers in Colatosti and McNelis (28 points each) doesn’t hurt, and senior Juliana Conforti and junior Olivia Carner combining for five points doesn’t hurt either.

Conforti scored Northport’s third goal in the 69th minute, and did it again two minutes later, with Carner assisting on both.

“On the first goal, Olivia saw me in the back, so she gave it back to me and it kind of went off the goalkeeper, kind of went off me,” Conforti said. “It was really the both of us, so we got that goal together.”

Carner said her team was ready to take the win, but she’s not ready to bid farewell to the seniors just yet.

“It’s really easy to see my teammates, like Conforti,” she said. “We practice all the time so the second I see her, it’s so easy to know that she can finish when I pass it to her. It’s really sad to think about our best friends not being here with us next year.”

Julilana Conforti sends the ball downfield. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Colatosti scored two goals, her second was unassisted in the 72nd minute. She scored the second goal of the game in the 37th off an assist from Conforti, who controlled the ball on the right side and saw Colatosti open in the center, and took advantage of the opportunity.

“If the team continues to play the way they’ve been playing all season, they have a real shot at winning the Long Island Championship,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said. “It’s a long road to get to that final game, but they definitely have what it takes to get there.”

It was a quiet 0-0 affair through 24 minutes of action though, until McNelis put one past Walt Whitman’s goalkeeper with an assist from junior Isabel Yeomans. McNelis said her team was not accustomed to being locked in a stalemate for that long.

“We usually score in the first 10 minutes,” McNelis said. ‘We got a little frantic in the beginning, but we settled down and we caught the defense off guard. Isabel made a good kick and I attacked.”

The team reflected on last year’s win on penalty kicks over Walt Whitman prior to the senior day game. McNelis said her Tigers knew they needed to come out strong to ensure that wasn’t going to happen again.

“That was insane,” McNelis said of last year’s win. “We were not letting them tie us again on this field. We came out strong. It’s our turf.”

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Kings Park girls soccer team upperclassmen celebrate senior day with their families. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park was spreading the wealth on senior night — something that especially pleased senior Jessica Hoyt.

Senior Jessica Hoyt powers past a defender. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’ve been playing with these girls since the seventh grade and not all the seniors play that much,” she said. “So it was great to see them get playing time and a bunch of them scored, who usually don’t, so it was just a really nice day.”

Four girls, two seniors, found the back of the net in the Kingsmens’ 5-0 shutout of East Hampton Oct. 16. The win was especially sweet for those upperclassmen playing in their last home game of the regular season.

“To win on senior night was amazing — I don’t get a lot of playing time, but to win tonight, our season just got even better,” senior defender Zoe Dougherty said.

The game against Hampton Bays though was not what she or any of her teammates expected. Even though the Bonackers are 0-13 on the season, they brought their A game.

“They were not what I expected,” Dougherty said. “Being in last place without a win they pressed us in the first half, holding us to just one goal.”

Kings Park scored in the 28th minute, when Hoyt drilled a Sam Hogan cross pass into the netting to break the ice.

Senior Mary Tuorto heads the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Hogan, a junior, beat out a defender for an open look at the goal two minutes into the second have, and sent her shot into the upper left corner. She scored a solo shot later in the half for a 3-0 advantage.

“We played them once before, so we knew they’d be tough — they don’t ever give up; they swarm to the ball and they play really hard,” Kings Park head coach Bryan LoPalo said. “They played better than their record indicates. [This is] an extremely tough league.”

With senior bench players swapped in for starters, junior Amelia Galdorisi and senior Mary Tuorto also found their way to the scoreboard. Kings Park ends the regular season at 11-3-2 overall with an 11-2-1 mark in League V. The girls soccer playoffs begin with outbracket games Saturday Oct. 21. The first round starts Tuesday Oct. 23.

“That was unexpected, [it was] a little different game they played, but absolutely they challenged us,” Tuorto said comparing the two matchups between the teams. “I was shocked at how our seniors came together. We don’t normally all play together on the field. Tonight it was so important to win this game.”

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Arianna Barbieri strikes the ball past a William Floyd defender. Photo by John Dielman

Ward Melville’s soccer team has an advantage most teams don’t: the connection between twin sisters Kerri and Nicole Liucci.

On their senior night, in a 3-0 win over William Floyd Oct. 16, the two scored a goal apiece, and assisted on each other’s tallies to help the Patriots (10-3-2, 9-2-2 League I) power through.

“We have twin telepathy,” Kerri Liucci said. “We work hard together.”

Nicole Liucci passes the ball downfield. Photo by John Dielman

Nicole Liucci was first to find the back of the net after her twin received a pass from the corner, and moved the ball front and center in the box. With a mid-air knock-in, the Liucci sisters made it an early 1-0 advantage.

“We have a really strong bond and we know where each other is at all times,” Nicole Liucci said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘I need to get the ball in the net.’ My sister passed it to me and I kicked it right in.”

More than 25 minutes passed before the Patriots propelled the ball into the net a second time. On a strike from 30 yards out, midfielder Arianna Barbieri found the far left corner, which was a surprise even to her.

“I decided to just wing it,” she said. “Watching it sail over and into the net felt really good. We were pushing the ball as hard as we could trying to score early and shut them down.”

Ward Melville’s defense held down the Colonials in the second half, despite losing returning All-County defender Kayla Winicki to a torn ACL in the first game of the season against Northport. Liv Halvorsen has stepped up to fill her place on the back line, knocking away chances and battling for crucial possession, which she’ll need to continue if Ward Melville wants to win a League I title.

“We had some girls step in and take over and they’ve been great and adjusted well,” Ward Melville head coach John Diehl said. “We’re gelling now and coming together in different ways.”

Kerri Liucci moves the ball across midfield. Photo by John Dielman

Kerri Liucci put the game out of reach with 12 minutes left when she sent the ball into the corner from close range. She had a chance at a goal seconds earlier, when she pushed the ball past a fallen William Floyd goalkeeper, but a defender batted it away. She said she was overjoyed to finally get on the stat sheet.

“I really wanted to score on senior night,” she said. “I tried, put all my effort behind the ball and it went in, and it felt amazing because I was working hard the whole game to get a goal. It was rewarding.”

The three seniors that scored on Ward Melville’s senior night are the three longest tenured members of the team.

“The girls get so excited for this day,” Diehl said of his 14 upperclassmen. “Their energy is high, their spirits are high and they ended up doing well. They’ve endured a lot and they’re a nice group of seniors. I love seeing them happy — it makes me smile.”

After what could potentially have been the last home game for Ward Melville this season, the Patriots soaked it in as the bench cleared in celebration of a successful shutout. Ward Melville travels to Brentwood for the final game of the regular season Oct. 18. If the Patriots come away with a win, they’ll also grab a piece of the League I title for the first time in years.

“Brentwood is always a strong team,” Diehl said. “It’s always tough against Brentwood at their house, too, because they play on grass and we’re not used to that surface, but heading into this last week I like where we are.”

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Michael Kuzca sends the ball into play between two opponents. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Northport came into Connetquot Sep. 9 and shut out the Thunderbirds on their home turf 8-0, the two team’s Oct. 3 matchup on the Tigers’ home field was no different, as Northport continued its play of dominance and blanked Connetquot 4-0 to remain undefeated in League II.

“We just always like to possess the ball,” Northport head coach Don Strasser said. “We want to be patient, and I think the boys did a really good job of executing the plan today.”

Jack Wetzel moves the ball across the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

It was a one-sided affair for Northport (10-1, 8-0). Jack Wetzel, who scored 14 points coming into the matchup, added three points to his his total with two goals and an assist, moving him into the Top 10 list of Suffolk County scorers.

Wetzel assisted on Konstantine Mendrinos’ first goal of the game in the 25th minute.

“I saw Jack get the ball down the sideline and I knew he was going to drive it into space with his pace, and I ran into the middle and I saw the gap open,” Mendrinos said. “I was there to put it home.”

Northport piled it in the next few minutes, as Wetzel scored both his goals between the 32- and 25-minute marks to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

“Chris [Fertig] won a very good 50-50 ball for me and I could have dribbled up and got a better opportunity,” Wetzel said on his first goal, adding that his teammates gave him plenty of opportunities throughout the game. “I was able to make good contact on the ball.”

Connetquot struggled to possess the ball all game, and had one shot on goal in the first half compared to Northport’s 19.

Matt Brennan moves the ball with an opponent on his back. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“We played them better than we did the first time,” Connetquot head coach Nick Sturtz said. “We came in with three or four starters short, so it was kind of scrappy play all day.”

Northport scored its fourth goal late in the game off the foot of James Diaz to make the score 4-0.

Wetzel said he hopes the Tigers can keep their streak going.

“We’re very excited and very happy about the position we’re in right now, but we are still taking it one game at a time,” Wetzel said. “We are not trying to think about going undefeated right now. We are thinking about beating Lindenhurst. They are very good and we are away, so we are just trying to care of business.”

Northport faces Lindenhurst (7-4, 4-4) Oct. 5. At 4:30 p.m. Northport won the first battle between the teams back on Sep. 12 with a 2-0 win.

Strasser said he likes the way his team is playing this season, but also knows the upcoming games will be a challenge for Northport.

“We don’t want our forecast too far ahead,” Strasser said. “We still got to to try to win the league title, and now our focus is on Lindenhurst. It won’t be easy, so we just have to continue to work hard.”

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Huntington's Carlos Reyes attempts to settle a pass. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

All the Huntington boys soccer team needed to do was change its offensive strategy after a scoreless first 40 minutes of play to top Copiague, 2-0, on the road Sept. 26, to remain undefeated in League III.

Huntington’s Freddie Amato grabs the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“You know this is a really good league, and quite honestly, we’ve been lucky in some instances,” Huntington head coach John Pagano said. “We’ve had close games, one-goal games, and any game, even against a team like Copiague [that hasn’t won yet] but are well-coached, we know that we could’ve fallen.”

Copiague spent most of the first half up field, pressing but managing just two shots on goal. Huntington senior goalkeeper Nat Amato was up for the challenge, and made a pair of pedestrian saves to keep Copiague off the board.

Copiague’s goalkeeper returned the favor on the other side, stopping Freddy Amador’s shot after the senior midfielder slipped past a defender on a pass from the middle and fired a shot to the left corner.

Luis Ortiz broke the ice for the Blue Devils in the second half, scoring off a pass from the crowd in front of the Copiague cage at the 29-minute mark. The score changed the tempo of the second half, and Huntington took advantage — spreading out the offense to look for cross opportunities.

Manny Reyes heads the ball over the Copiauge goalkeeper. Photo by Bill Landon

“We pressed more in the second half,” Pagano said. “[Copiague was] laying back with an extra defender, and that made it difficult for us. Once we shifted and stretched them out a little bit it gave us a little bit more passing and running space.”

Opportunity found sophomore forward Carlos Reyes soon after, when he drove in a rebound shot for insurance just over five minutes later.

“It began with the defense and it built from there,” Reyes said of the play. “I thought he was going to cross it in from the far, post but once I saw it start to curve in and then it got past the defender, I was able to get it.”

With the win, Huntington improves to 6-0. Five of the Blue Devil’s wins were one-goal games.

“Our strikers are really fast,” Amador said. “[Copiague is] a really good team. They played really hard for every 50-50 ball, so we have to step up and play hard in every game.”

Huntington is back in action Sept. 28 when the team travels to Smithtown West (4-2) for a 4:30 p.m. game.

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Newfield senior Emily Diaz sends the ball to the box. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Newfield’s girls soccer team is sharing the wealth.

Five Wolverines scored and four added assists in a 6-0 shutout of Copiague Sept. 25. Despite putting the game out of reach early, Newfield’s athletes were quick to point to missed opportunities.

“We need to finish the ball in front of the net more, but we had a lot of opportunities,” senior center back Taylor Regensburger said. “Having different opportunities gives us momentum going into the next game.”

Newfield sophomore Sierra Rosario sends the ball to her feet. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior midfielder Emily Diaz put the Wolverines on the board early, and midfielders freshman Nicole Niculescu and sophomore Karlie Martin also found the corners of the goal for a 3-0 halftime lead.

Despite the lead, Newfield fell victim to offside calls that halted breakaway opportunities.

“Credit to Copiague because they’re well-coached,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said. “Those offside traps aren’t us being more offside as them knowing exactly what they’re doing. It’s a lot of credit to Copiague and how much work they put into using that strategy to their advantage.”

Regensburger, Diaz and junior forward Kaitlyn Drennan tallied the second-half scores, but no one could take their eyes off sophomore center midfielder Sierra Rosario, who bounced up and down the field frequently unmarked despite Copiague screaming for coverage with each toss or send-in.

“I think everyone contributed to the game and did their own thing, but as a team we still worked well,” Rosario said. “We kept possession, which is something we’re working on, and we’re building that possession-based game by not just looking for the long pass.”

Verladi said he is also seeing the possession game develop.

“We want to keep the ball on the floor, we want to do a lot of off-the-ball movement, we want to work the ball to everybody,” he said. “We were a little inconsistent, but there’s steps in the right direction.”

The coach said he thinks his team has been overlooked after the Wolverines made it to the Class AA quarterfinals last season.

Newfield sophomore Karlie Martin battles for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we were a little underestimated heading in,” he said. “Last year we ended in a good spot and graduated several seniors, so I think people thought we had a young team and it won’t be the same team.”

With the win the Wolverines are now 4-2 at the halfway point in the season, dropping games to Half Hollow Hills East and Smithtown West, the team that knocked out Newfield in the postseason last year.

“Last year boosted our program’s confidence, so this year we’re looking to take that even further,” Rosario said.

Regensburger said she sees now what she may not have seen heading into the season.

“I didn’t think we’d be better than last year, but since we’ve come back and started playing, I think we can do even better and go farther in the playoffs,” she said. “We have a lot of strong young players.”

Veraldi said the next two weeks will be telling as to where his team will ultimately fall in the standings, but said the objective remains the same: get to the playoffs.

“They have acute senses,” he said of his Wolverines. “It looks like they want the ball, and they have a plan once they get the ball. They were able to move it in a fashion where they wanted to generate some offense, and we’re going to keep powering through.”

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With the game-winning goal, Ward Melville’s Justin Seedorf got a promotion.

“Welcome to the starting lineup,” Ward Melville head coach Jon Stecker said to his sophomore center midfielder while he grabbed his shoulders as the two walked off the soccer field.

Seedorf helped the Patriots make light of what seemed to be a dark situation during the team’s first win of the season, a 2-0 blanking at home of Sachem East Sept. 12.

“We knew this was a must-win game and we had to give 200 percent to get this win,” Seedorf said. “We stayed in it, we didn’t give up.”

Through an unusually high volume of foul calls, changed calls and overruled whistles from the game’s two referees — which included two disallowed Ward Melville goals — the Patriots focus never wavered.

“They played very hard, they kept their heads in the game and I’m very happy with what they did today,” Stecker said. “The way they kept their composure — they took a step in the right direction and showed me they have the maturity it’s going to take in League I to get to the playoffs and get to the next level.”

Despite a 0-0 halftime score, the two teams came out firing. The first half even saw Ward Melville senior Justin Cahill fire at the net, knocking in a wayward kick with his head, but despite a defender being on the post, an offside call negated the goal.

Sachem East seemed to be running out of energy in the second half, and Seedorf sought to take advantage of it. With 19:21 left to play, he raced ahead of the mid-fielder and got his foot on the ball, knocking it between two of his opponent’s toughest defenders and into the goal.

“I saw there was a lot of space up in the top of the box so I made my run, and as I did that the ball came back to me and I finished it near post,” he said. “To see that ball hit the back of the net felt amazing.”

Ward Melville pressed on, and later senior Anthony Guglielmo had a goal removed from the scoresheet, also on an offside call.

“Teams in the past might have let what was going on today affect the outcome of this game,” Stecker said. “I think we needed this game more importantly for our own psyche than even our record. They played very hard despite some goals that were taken away.”

At the 1:44 mark, senior left wing Harry Radke got his body on a send-in from classmate Nick Honor for an insurance goal.

“I knew with Nick Honor that we were going to go front post,” Radke said. “I made the run at the right time and dove as far as I could.”

He said it was sweet to help seal the deal.

“I’ve played against a few of these kids when I was younger and it feels good to score against them,” he said. “We were resilient. Even when we got bad calls and lost two goals we pulled together and pushed through as a team.”

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Port Jefferson's Gina Lucero attempts to deflect a Babylon pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Port Jefferson’s girls soccer team came close to racking up two 6-0 losses to start the season, but Hailey Hearney had other plans against Babylon Sept. 5, breaking away with the ball with four minutes left to score the first goal for the Royals in 155 minutes of gameplay during a 6-1 loss.

Port Jefferson’s Reece Koban sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“So happy, I’m thrilled,” Port Jefferson head coach Michele Aponte said of her team breaking the ice. “There’s a lot of nerves, because there’s high expectations for them. To not get on the board with Southold last week was a little disheartening, so I think it helps boost their confidence. It may only be one, but they see that score on the board.”

Eyes are on Port Jefferson after back-to-back state titles in 2015-16 and a state semifinal appearance the year prior. The Royals are a much different team than the last few seasons, with just three returning varsity players — all non-starters — from last year’s squad.

“Because they’re new to working together as a team, they need to build that trust with one another, whereas the past few years those girls have been playing together for seasons and seasons, since they were little kids,” Aponte said. “They need to talk to each other, they need to communicate. They have to learn how to trust one another, telling each other if there’s a man on them, calling that they’re open — that’s lacking right now.”

During the first half of the game against Babylon, Port Jefferson eased its way into becoming familiar with its foe.

“We didn’t come out very aggressive, but as the game went on we picked it up and got a little more comfortable,” said freshman forward and co-captain Hearney, one of the three returning members. “Pressuring the ball in the midfield is a weak point for us.”

Port Jefferson’s Morgan Bullis battles for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

As Babylon’s strong feet continued to send chances over Port Jefferson’s goal, the Royals continued to rack up opportunities for possession, but missed on first and second-chance looks.

By halftime, the Panthers led 4-0. After two more Babylon goals to open the second half, Hearney had her second chance at a goal, but her shot went just wide to keep the Royals scoreless.

“They stepped it up in the first half for sure, and in the second half they started getting a little tired,” she said. “I also have quite a few injured girls, so I’m hoping we can get through this season without having too many more injuries. But I think they did alright considering Babylon is our toughest competition.”

Some areas for the team to focus on in the weeks ahead — besides communication and trust — are conditioning, passing and just getting used to the nuances of playing at the varsity level, according to the head coach.

“A lot of the time we’re not looking as to who we’re passing to and they’re either incomplete or we’re passing to the other team,” Aponte said. “We’re getting used to the space, most of these girls were on the junior varsity team last year so they’re not used to playing on a bigger field, but they’re a young group, so we have time. The bar is set pretty high, but we have plenty of time to mold them, to work with them and get them to be that top-notch playing team that I think they can be.”

Port Jefferson’s Lena McFarland dribbles downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The team is strongest on defense. Sophomore and co-captain Gina Lucero, a returner, and Reece Koban have been solid on the back line, deflecting the ball and pressuring to regain possession for Port Jeff.

“They are machines the two of them,” Aponte said. “They don’t back down to anything and I’m glad we have them back there because so far the defense is the section that needs to step up right now, just because of the competition we played.”

She said the pair has been consistent and key to keeping opponents out of the box.

“I feel bad because they’re doing so well I’m not subbing them out, and they’re probably exhausted and need a break, but I’m just a little nervous to pull them out right now,” the coach said, laughing. “They stepped up last week in our first game, and they did it again today.”

Hearney finally found the back of the net with 4:04 left to play. She said she is looking forward to seeing the team grows from here.

“Now that we have one goal, hopefully we can progress and win a game,” she said. “Since there’s only three returning players it’s kind of hard, because we learned a lot from the former seniors, and we’re just trying to share that knowledge. Hopefully this is a rebuilding year and we can work back up to what we once had.”

Determined and gutsy in goal, Northport’s Emma Havrilla has her sights set on another successful season.

After prohibiting opponents from scoring in 13 matchups last year, the senior goalkeeper secured another shutout — a 1-0 victory in the Tigers girls soccer team’s first game of the season against Ward Melville Sept. 2.

“It felt really good,” Havrilla said of the away win. “Since we were reigning county champs last year this shows we’re ready to come out hard for it again this year.”

Even when the Patriots carried out multiple corner-kick attempts and pressured inside the box to try to avenge an overtime loss in last season’s Suffolk semifinals, Northport head coach Aija Gipp never questioned Havrilla’s abilities or her judgment calls.

“Having Emma back there — we trust her with every decision she makes,” she said.

And there were some close calls to be made. The senior leaped out and grabbed possession after each corner kick the Patriots took, and when Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Kiley Hamou had a breakaway opportunity with 30 minutes left in the game, Havrilla came out and tapped the ball to her right, and dodged to the left to secure possession of the ball on the rebound shot.

“I saw her take a bad touch, that’s when I come off my line,” Havrilla said. “Considering we tied them 0-0 and won in penalty kicks last year, it’s great to win against them this year.”

She too doesn’t have any doubt, as it pertains to her defensive line, despite the crop of younger competitors this year.

“We’ve put in a lot of work and I trust the girls in front of me,” she said. “We’re still just as strong.”

Senior midfielder Emily McNelis sealed the deal for Northport with 8:20 left in the first half, with the help of a penalty. Ward Melville was called for a handball, and Isabel Yeomans stepped up to send the ball into play. McNelis got a touch on the ball and sent it past Ward Melville senior goalkeeper Samantha Tarpey for the 1-0 lead.

“She was where she needed to be,” Gipp said. “Having Emily there, the goal, it was picture perfect.”

McNelis agreed with Havrilla that with Ward Melville being one of the toughest teams the Tigers will face, the win shows Northport is ready to rumble.

“Everyone played with so much heart and such a desire to win — we had great intensity and we kept it going,” McNelis said. “Ward Melville came out for blood today, and this shows that even though we lost a lot of key players last year, we’ve come out even better, and we’re still the top team to beat.”

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With nine returning starters Kingsmen have eyes set on postseason play

Kings Park goalie Nick VanDuesen sends the ball into play during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s Matt Anderer heads the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Last year Kings Park needed to win the final game of the regular season to make the postseason, but after two overtime periods that left the game resulting in a tie against Hauppauge,  the Kingsmen were held back from making that playoff appearance — by a single point.

But that was then, and the Kings Park boys soccer team has shaken off the stalemate and is looking to make strides toward a better start to the season and not leave a postseason hope hanging in the balance. With nine returning starters, the chance of achieving that goal increases this season.

“We lost seven seniors to graduation, but what’s great is that we have those returning starters, which is tremendous,” Kings Park head coach Bill Hender said. “They all had big minutes last year, and our bench guys are also tremendous and I think they’re much stronger than they were last year, so we have a lot more depth.”

Because of reduced enrollment, Kings Park moved down to League V as a Class A team this season but won’t escape its nemesis because Hauppauge also dropped down in the division standings.

“We’re considered a Class A school now, which is good,” the head coach said. “When we go into the playoffs we won’t go against the Brentwoods, which have four times as many kids as we do, so it’ll be a little bit more fair for us.”

Kings Park’s Eoghan McGovern and James Sicardi fight for possesion during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

He said he’ll be leaning on Eoghan McGovern, Liam Thompson and Matt Anderer to steer the ship, but said he’s hoping junior Connor Brady can contribute some guidance.

“He really turned it on in the second half of last season,” Hender said. “In a game against Eastport-South Manor he scored two goals in a span of about 48 seconds — they were both beautiful shots.”

Thompson, a two-year varsity center back, said he thinks his team has its best chance to pick off Hauppauge this year.

“We’ve always been close with Hauppauge — we’ve always been right there but never actually made it over the hump — we’ve always wanted to beat them,” he said. “I think we have it this year with this team — we have returning guys and we’ve all been best friends forever, so we’re excited.”

Senior center midfielder Robbie Catoir agreed with Thompson in that the Kingsmen’s pros this season could help them get the better of the team who ended their last season early.

“It makes us hungrier,” Catoir said. “We’ll have to work on our communication to start, but Hauppauge is still the team to beat.”

Kings Park’s Eric Escobar catches a pass during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Defensively, the team returns three out of the four core from the back line.

Guarding the net will be starting goalie Nicolas VanDuesen, who didn’t see action last year due to an injury, but is now at full strength.

“I’m most pleased with our defense,” McGovern said. “I think we have to focus on just scoring goals. We’ll see once the games start up if we can finish.”

Hender agreed his team’s defense is a force to be reckoned with, pointing to McGovern as the biggest driving force to back up his claim.

“We have a three-year All-Conference player in Eoghan McGovern, and I think he’s the best center back in the county — he’s that good,” the head coach said. “Other coaches have made comments about how good he is. And Alex Graci is a junior who came in and gave us a lot of minutes in a lot of different positions last year, so he’s looked great throughout training camp this year. He’s really come into his own.”

Kings Park will play a pair of nonleague games, against Wyandanch and Shoreham-Wading River, before its season opener at home against Rocky Point Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

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