ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River freshman Doug DeMaio will play forward for the Wildcats.
At the beginning of last season, the Shoreham-Wading River boys soccer team set a goal of earning a home playoff game. The Wildcats accomplished that and defeated Westhampton 3-2 in an overtime thriller, a game the Wildcats twice trailed.
With all but two starters back from last year’s team, the goals are even higher for the Wildcats as they begin the 2012 season in pursuit of the program’s first county title since 2005.
“I think that experience is going to come a lot into play throughout the season,” said Shoreham’s fourth-year coach Andrew Moschetti. “We want to compete for the league championship in League VI.”
The Wildcats’ playoff run came to an end last season in the semifinals at Sayville, one of the perennial top teams in Class A. The Wildcats haven’t advanced beyond the semifinals since 2006.
They’ll rely on a big senior class to try to make it happen this season. Shoreham enters the season with 11 seniors, many of whom have a few years’ varsity experience.
The Wildcats had a productive summer leading into the season by winning the small school championship in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League. Moschetti said they’re hoping to carry that momentum into the varsity season.
“The hard work the kids put in over the summer and the preseason work, running and conditioning, are really going to come into play and help out the first couple games of the season,” he said.
The Wildcats return their leading scorer from last season in Charles DeMaio. A forward, DeMaio scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Westhampton. He also assisted on the first two goals.
Junior Zach McAuley will play up top as well. McAuley has double duty this season by also playing kicker on the football team. Moschetti said he sat down with football coach Matt Millheiser before the season to look at the schedule and determine how McAuley could do both. On Saturday McAuley missed the soccer team’s non-league game against Rocky Point to play in the football team’s season opener. He kicked a field goal that made it 17-0 in the win.
Freshman Doug DeMaio, a newcomer to the varsity, will also see time at forward. The DeMaio brothers were the leading scorers for Shoreham during the summer league.
Three seniors return in the midfield: Matt O’Gorman, Greg Canellys and Kevin Turano.
“Those guys all have two, three years of varsity experience,” Moschetti said.
The defense will be led by seniors Travis Qualley, Vinny Alese and juniors Michael McDonnell and Anthony Cusano.
Senior Evan Kearney returns as the starting goalkeeper.
“It looks like the team is starting to gel together real nicely,” Moschetti said.
The Wildcats are back in League VI, where the top competition includes Miller Place, East Hampton and John Glenn.
Riverhead coach Lamine Traore understands it’s a long road to building a program.
“You have to have a foundation,” the second-year coach said.
Without an organized club team in the area and minimal emphasis on youth programs, players have little experience by the time they reach the varsity at Riverhead. Whereas players in other schools play soccer together throughout the year, that rarely happens in Riverhead.
“It’s hard to work on everything in two months,” said Traore, who was the top Division II goal scorer for Dowling College in 2008.
While wins were hard to come by last season, the Blue Waves played competitive soccer that they can hope to build upon this season. Five of their losses last season were by one goal; two of them were in overtime.
The Blue Waves did lose some key players from last year’s team, but will have nine seniors to go with younger players coming up from the JV. Traore said the JV had a strong season last year.
The Blue Waves return seniors Diego Guazhambo on defense and Andrew Ruggerio and Michael Atkins in the midfield. Sophomore Selvin Morales is back at goal along with another 10th-grader, Ryan DiResta.
Traore said the biggest emphasis heading into the season is generating offense.
“We want to move more forward,” Traore said.
Early in the season Traore said he wants to see how the new players up from JV can handle the higher level of play.
Riverhead will face a challenging schedule this season competing in League III. The Blue Waves open the season Friday at home against East Islip. The Blue Waves lost twice to the Redmen last year, including a 3-2 overtime defeat.
The McGann-Mercy Monarchs enter the season with no seniors and barely enough bodies to field a team. It’ll be an uphill climb under new coach Frank Baker, but the good news is that the Monarchs have a core of players who could play together for several seasons.
With six freshmen and three sophomores forming the 12-man roster, the Monarchs will resemble more of a JV team.
“We’re in a rebuilding season,” Baker said. “They work hard and they’re very loyal. They have a passion for the game, as I do.”
Baker takes over after Louis Manoussos and Mercy severed ties after a less than harmonious relationship. Manoussos — fired from his previous job at Shoreham-Wading River mid-season in 2008 — spent the last three years coaching Mercy. Last season ended on bad terms as many players felt Manoussos was degrading them.
Several players who would have been seniors opted not to return to the program this year, Baker said.
So the Monarchs will rely on their youth.
“I said [to the team], my goal is to make you the best athlete and best soccer player that I can,” Baker said. “And your goal is to be the best athlete and soccer player that you can. And the way we play is a result of how we practice.”
A retired physical education teacher and athletic director at Oyster Bay, Baker came back to New York after living in Alabama and Florida. He was interested in returning to coaching and found an opportunity at Mercy.
He got a call from athletic director John Lonardo in mid-August to discuss the possibility of taking over the boys varsity team.
Baker said he’s going to start the season with a strategy of keeping his four best players on defense. And if they can hold the opponent, he’ll switch them to the front line.
The only upperclassmen for Mercy are Codey Colins, James Haynal and Chris Williams — all juniors. Haynal scored the team’s lone goal Monday in an 8-1 non-league loss at Mount Sinai.
Louis Arresta, Wesley McBernie and Michael Shelton are sophomores.
Mercy opens the league season Thursday at home versus Hampton Bays.