The Riverhead High School boys soccer team’s reward for finishing last in Suffolk County League III last season wasn’t a demotion, but rather a promotion to League II. Due to changing school populations, the Blue Waves were bumped up to another Class AA league after finishing in eighth place.
Coach Lamine Traore realizes his team will face plenty of challenges against the likes of defending state champion Walt Whitman, Central Islip, Half Hollow Hills East and Northport.
“We are going to be the underdog,” he said. “Those are … big teams [with] very organized soccer programs in the towns. It’s going to be really, really hard taking on those teams.”
Traore admitted he did not know much about League II.
“It’s obviously going to be a little tougher because I don’t know anything about that league. I know how most of the teams play,” he said. “It’s going to be a new thing for us.
“Hey, it’s still soccer. The ball is still round. The goals are the same size and the rules are the same.”
Traore will be counting on three players to help the Blue Waves (1-13-1) navigate their latest challenge.
One will be junior center back Angel Camarillo, who was sidelined last season with a torn meniscus.
“We missed him tremendously last year with his injuries,” Traore said. “Now he’s coming back. He’s going to be a big help in our defense, a natural leader.”
Two key performers will boost the midfield — sophomore Malcolm Swett on the defensive end and senior Roberto Guzman on the attacking side.
Swett can also go offensive, “depending on what kind of opponent we have,” Traore said. “He’s going to be a huge plus this year.”
So will Guzman, who did not play last season. “He might be a difference-maker this year,” Traore said.
Traore was encouraged by Riverhead’s promising showing during the Town of Brookhaven Summer League in which it recorded a 5-4 mark.
“I have no doubt it will help this team a lot,” he said.
In his seven years coaching Shoreham-Wading River, Andrew Moschetti has become accustomed to losing graduating seniors. It’s part of the cycle of high school sports.
Moschetti, however, admitted he has never had to rebuild as he has been forced to do this year. He lost 15 seniors to graduation from a team that finished 10-4-2.
“This is the biggest turnaround I’ve ever had,” he said. “We lost a lot of senior leaders and a lot of experience and have lot of JV players trying to fill some of those spots.”
Center back Kyle Tingo, who played on the flank last season, is the team’s most experienced player.
“He does play sweeper on his club team,” Moschetti said, “so moving to sweeper is nothing new to him.”
The other senior is Jake Del Duca, a central midfielder who will be asked to play at striker. Other returnees include junior central midfielder Trey Ekert, flank midfielder Cooper Cummings and forward Anthony Guzzone.
Only five players have varsity experience.
Many Wildcats performed in the Brookhaven Summer League, giving them a taste of what varsity soccer is like.
“So it was a good perspective,” Moschetti said. “It wasn’t about winning and losing. It was about getting exposure they never had before.”
Competition in preseason camp has been fierce because so many starting jobs are up for grabs.
“It’s different, but it’s nice to see the young kids competing over starting spots,” Moschetti said. “The competition is battling in practice. Kids want to show they want to earn a spot.”
Photo caption: Roberto Guzman will fill a key role for Riverhead as an attacking midfielder. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)