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Joe Camarda

Jack Costa high-fives teammate Michael Gohn after scoring. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A little wind and rain wasn’t enough to stop Rocky Point’s boys’ soccer team.

As the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine pounded Long Island, the Eagles tore up the field, scoring two slippery goals in a 2-0 shutout victory over visiting Comsewogue.

“They did well considering the weather,” Rocky Point head coach Joe Camarda said. “It was a back and forth game and we were fortunate enough to put the ball in the net.”

Xavier Guey-Mock changes direction with Comsewogue’s Kieran Pagano on his back. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Xavier Guey-Mock changes direction with Comsewogue’s Kieran Pagano on his back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite Comsewogue setting the pace and controlling the time of possession in the first 40 minutes, Rocky Point junior forward Xavier Guey-Mock scored off a breakaway with 7:32 left in the half to give the Eagles the lead. A Warrior opponent dove to stop him from gaining possession at the 40-yard line, though the slide just missed, and Guey-Mock was able to easily dart to the net. As Comsewogue senior goalkeeper Harrison Granger slid to his right, Guey-Mock knocked it into the empty far left corner for the 1-0 advantage.

“I started running down and saw the goalie come out, so I tried to chip it in and it worked,” the goal-scorer said. “I play in this weather a lot though, so it wasn’t that bad.”

At the 37:56 mark of the second half, junior center midfielder Jack Costa gave his team a 2-0 advantage. After receiving a pass at the 20-yard line, he sent the ball toward the box, and it ended up floating into the left corner, past the diving keeper.

“It was a little too far away from me, so I toe poked at it and hit it right,” he said. “It just happened to go in as I slipped on the ground.”

While Costa thought his Eagles looked sloppy in the first half, he said the team’s chemistry is what helped them pull through.

“We worked hard and put in the effort to get the result,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, but good practices make good games.”

Twelve returning seniors have been a major help in carrying over team chemistry from the 2015 team. Camarda said he believes this is one of his best teams he’s had in the 10 years he’s been coaching at Rocky Point.

“It’s a big senior group, but we have 22 on the roster and everyone has a great attitude; they’re putting in what I ask them to put in and I can’t ask for more,” he said.

The head coach said he has a strong returner in defensive back Dylan Trude and added that senior goalkeeper Michael Antici has improved immensely during the offseason. Camarda said the Eagles have a strong midfield, but there isn’t a standout player on the team. Instead, they’ll rely on strength in numbers.

Luis Hernandez grabs possession in front of the goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Luis Hernandez grabs possession in front of the goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We don’t have an outstanding player, so we’re all working together as a unit,” he said.

He’s also proud of how his Eagles managed to keep their composure.

“Under these conditions and with this weather, that’s all you can ask, is for them to stay composed, stay focused,” he said. “I asked us to defend as a unit and finish the opportunities we had, and they did that, so I’m proud of them.”

To maintain their competitive edge, Guey-Mock said the Eagles will have a few things to improve upon.

“We need to work on talking a little more,” he said. “Even though the ball skips on the turf, we also need to work on our passing.”

Camarda said he hopes his team can continue to rise to the occasion when Rocky Point travels to Sayville Sept. 9 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup at Depot Street Field.

“They have determination, setting their goals and trying to reach them,” Camarda said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time and we hope we continue to perform like we did today.”

TOPSoccer program brings smiles to children with mental and physical disabilities

Children race across the soccer field grinning from ear to ear, eyes beaming as they learn skills and play games, and it’s all because of Rocky Point’s TOPSoccer league, which is a program for children with mental and physical disabilities.

“We’ve been in a couple of programs where it was hard for them to keep up with the other kids, and this one, working with the big kids is amazing,” said Samantha Netburn, whose young children Justin and Summer participate in the league. “They really support them.”

Rocky Point varsity soccer coaches Joe Camarda and Pete Costa have wanted to start the program for years now, but hadn’t had enough interest. The two also teach in the district, and after hearing some parents were looking for a program like this one, the coaches teamed up with Long Island Junior Soccer League to create the current team, which has approximately 10 kids along with varsity team members as helpers.

“For our first year I think it’s a successful program,” Camarda said. “I like to see the interaction between the varsity kids and the kids that are involved.”

Athletes from the boys’ and girls’ teams donate their time, teaching the kids how to dribble, juggle and play offense and defense. They also group up to do various exercises, and the volunteers encourage the kids and repeatedly tell the young athletes how great a job they’re doing. The team recently competed in its first tournament, where Rocky Point played two games against TOPS teams from other clubs in Commack. There were close to 300 members competing.

Netburn said it has really boosted her children’s self-esteem.

“It’s such a small community and everyone is so kind to each other,” she said. “My kids look forward to coming here.”

Michele Anzaldi, whose son Frankie is in the league, said she too hadn’t been able to find anything like it for her son.

“He absolutely loves soccer — we love our ‘soccer Saturday’ and Frankie looks at the weather all week long to make sure it’s going to hold up for soccer,” she said. “We’re so grateful that the coaches and kids are taking the time and it’s refreshing to see high school kids treating kids with disabilities so well and so nicely.”

Frankie said he’s having a lot of fun.

“I like to play soccer,” he said, after scoring a hat trick. “It’s awesome.”

For varsity players like Ryan Hembury, it’s also a great time.

“It’s a good thing to do for the community and a way to give back,” he said.

Registration is still open at www.rockypointsoccerclub.com, with two more weekends left in the spring before a trophy day on June 11. The program could return in the fall, and Netburn said she’s already spreading the word and getting more families involved.

“It’s nice to see everyone happy,” Camarda said. “It’s a reward you can’t pay for.”

The Comsewogue boys’ soccer team got the ball rolling.

In League V action Friday, the Warriors invaded Rocky Point territory and blanked the Eagles, 5-0, to earn their first win of the season.

“Today was a big improvement,” Comsewogue head coach Don O’Brien said. “We’ve been struggling with some injuries and today we finally put a team on the field. They executed the offensive system of play and we created a lot of chances.”

Comsewogue sophomore forward Luis Hernandez scored first less than four minutes into the game from outside the right goal post, giving his team the early lead.

Almost 10 minutes of back-and-forth action later, Comsewogue made another good attempt, but Rocky Point junior goalkeeper Michael Antici made one of his eight saves on the day.

Despite Antici’s efforts, the Warriors found the back of the net again before the halftime break.

With 3:30 left, senior midfielder Nick Towler headed the ball off a corner kick into the right side of the goal to give his team a 2-0 advantage.

“I was going toward the goalie and just saw the ball coming and hit it in,” Towler said, laughing. “I wasn’t trying to do anything special.”

The Warriors were gunning to get another one at the start of the second half, but didn’t capitalize until senior midfielder John Koebel scored off a foul kick that had been sent into the box and rebounded off an opponent.

On the other end of the field, Warriors senior goalie Steven Towler made a couple of strong saves during the second half to preserve the shutout, but overall did not see much action.

Comsewogue senior midfielders Jake Muller and Trevor Kennedy tacked on the final two goals of the game, the latter lighting up the scoreboard when Antici tried to catch a corner kick but instead sent the ball bouncing off his hands and into the net.

The victorious Warriors were optimistic about the future, despite losing some of their top playmakers to graduation last year.

“I think we need a little more experience,” Nick Towler said. He is one of this year’s starters who was a sub last season, and he thinks he and his counterparts are “really holding the team together.”

Rocky Point head coach Joe Camarda was disappointed with his team’s effort.

“They played very flat,” he said. “It just wasn’t our game today. They didn’t really step up the way we’ve been playing, so it was one of our weaker games.”

Through the midfield and attack, Camarda said his athletes weren’t patient enough to get opportunities and finish them.

Rocky Point senior defender Jimmy Gohn agreed.

“We just had an off game,” he said. “We had some OK plays every now and again when we blasted the ball and made some connections up top, but unfortunately we didn’t get too many of those and didn’t do well clearing the ball in the back.”

But Camarda thinks his team has what it takes to be a contender in League V.

“This is, to me, one of my best teams,” he said. “Talent-wise and attitude-wise, they’ve really come together. I think we’re going to have a good season and surprise a lot of people, but if we play like today, I don’t think we will.”

O’Brien said that after a performance like the Warriors had, he’s looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season holds for his squad.

“The game plan was executed to perfection — we just have to keep building and get better,” he said. “I knew it was going to take some time for them to work together offensively to create chances, and that’s exactly what they did today. They’re getting better every game, just like we thought.”