The tide just might be starting to turn for the Riverhead High School boys soccer team.
Seventy prospective players turned out for preseason camp and new coach Evan Philcox kept 52 for the varsity and junior varsity squads.
“There is an overall sense of hunger and desire,” Philcox said of the Blue Waves, who have never reached the playoffs. Riverhead (3-13) finished last in tough Suffolk County League II last season.
A big key will be senior goalkeeper Angel Camarillo, who performed on defense last year before returning to the nets. After repeatedly landing on his shoulder for years, Camarillo decided to protect it and play the field.
“He was hesitant,” Philcox said of Camarillo’s decision to go back in goal. “He sounds like he’s wrapping his head around it. He knows the game and is bilingual. So, he can communicate with everyone on the field. That may turn out to be one of the best decisions we made all year.
“Angel set the tone by moving into the goal. What a legacy it would be for him.”
Philcox, who replaced Lamine Traore as coach, will be counting on two other seniors to move the Blue Waves forward — midfielders Darwin Villatoro and Vincent Gattuso.
“Vinny is a workhorse,” Philcox said. “He’s one of the hardest, if not hardest, workers on the team.”
Philcox will stress defense this season. “I told the guys, if we don’t give up a goal and go 0-0-12, that would be good enough to get Riverhead into the playoffs,” he said. “Defense first and all hands on deck.”
One thing is certain: Many players will see action.
“I would like to involve more guys this year, substitute a little more,” Philcox said. “Let everybody know that you’re going to come in when your legs are fresh. We want to keep a lot of guys involved. We don’t want guys sitting on the bench.”
The Blue Waves will open their season against Lindenhurst on the new turf field at the Pulaski Sports Complex on Tuesday. The team can’t wait.
“They’re all excited,” Philcox said.
Replacing longtime coach Andrew Moschetti at the helm, Russ Mitchinson is hopeful Shoreham-Wading River (2-13-1) will be able to make it back to the postseason.
“So far, so good,” Mitchinson said. “The boys are coming together and learning the new system.”
Mitchinson was the JV coach at the highly successful Northport program for 11 years, so perhaps he can bring that winning environment back to Shoreham. The Wildcats finished seventh out of eight League VI teams.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “There’s still a lot to come together. We have the right attitude. I’m looking to have a successful season. We take a step forward every day.”
The Wildcats are senior-heavy with 10 12th-graders, so it’s not surprising that Mitchinson will rely on those veterans. They include defender Matt Moran, who is the leader of a strong back line, central midfielders Trey Ekert and Eamon Reagan and speedy forward Anthony Guzzone. Junior Wesley Pace will man the goal.
The Wildcats have plenty of talent. It is a matter of coming together as a team.
“It’s not about the individual,” Mitchinson said. “It’s how we play together as a team. If we don’t play well together, we won’t play well as a team.”
After a year’s hiatus, Bishop McGann-Mercy returns to the varsity level. Mike Comanda is the new coach for the Monarchs, who open the season at home with a League VIII encounter against Greenport on Tuesday. The Monarchs last played in 2015, finishing at 0-13 overall. Comanda did not return phone calls by deadline.
Photo caption: Midfielder Vincent Gattuso is one of the seniors Riverhead is counting on. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)