Riverhead turns to Page for next chapter

Riverhead players worked on their ball skills during Monday’s practice.

In turning the page in its history, the Riverhead High School girls soccer team has turned to a Page.

If Tim Page feels he has been here before, well, it’s because he has. Page has been involved as a coach in the Riverhead program ever since 2001 and was the varsity coach for one year in 2006 when he took over from Maria Dounelis, who had a baby that year. The Blue Waves went 5-5 that season.

Dounelis, who has coached Riverhead for six of its seven varsity seasons, has stepped up aside. In her time in charge, the Blue Waves went 28-58-6 (.304). Now, the team has once again been placed in the hands of Page, the former assistant coach.

“I knew it was a one-year term, so it had kind of a ceiling to it,” Page, 52, said in reference to that 2006 season. “Now I know it’s my program. It really feels like my team.”

Page’s team will hit the field this season with a decidedly different look. Not only has the coaching staff been shaken up, but 13 players from last year’s 3-13-1 team have moved on, making for a virtually clean cut from the past. The team has eight returning players.

Riverhead has been dropped down from Suffolk County League III to League IV, which Page said is a plus. Although the Blue Waves have a good deal of young, new faces, don’t be mistaken, they have talent.

The team’s only three returning starters — juniors Savannah Smith, Tanya Rast and Emily Oruc — will be central figures in a defense that will play in front of freshman goalkeeper Carolyn Carrera.

A pair of sophomore strikers, Ashley Drozd and Alex McKillop, also have varsity experience. Drozd is a member of the Long Island Rough Riders junior under-15 team.

Two sets of sisters are on the team. Katie McKillop, Alex’s sister, is an eighth-grade midfielder. Sara Britt, a senior defender, and sophomore center midfielder Shelby Britt are the other sisters.

Amanda Gallo, a junior, is Carrera’s capable backup in goal. Megan Weiss plays striker. Aleycia Kratoville, a utility player, has been brought up from the junior varsity team for which she played forward last year. The other new faces are stopper/sweeper Tyesha Harrell, defender Kyla Brunskill, forward Kristina Stapon and midfielders Corine Moore, Emily Jehle and Maria Shafer.

Page said his 2006 experience helped him prepare for his new assignment. Even so, he has already received a reminder of what being the head coach involves.

“I didn’t realize all the paperwork that comes with it,” he said. “That’s the other side of it.”

There really aren’t many other places a team can go following a winless season but up. Yet, that isn’t the only reason why Bishop McGann-Mercy (0-13-3 last year) can feel good entering the new season. The Monarchs have nine returning starters, 13 with previous varsity experience, and have been placed in a league with teams closer to their level. It may add up to a productive season.

“I think we’re definitely stronger than we were last year,” McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton said. “We have more experience on the field and more speed up front.”

Paton also has a team that she said improved tremendously over the course of last season when the Monarchs faced stiff competition in League VII. This season McGann-Mercy, a Class C team, will compete in League VIII against one Class B team, four Class Cs and two Class Ds.

Goals can be expected from junior forward Karlin McIntyre and others. “Every year we get more offensive-minded, and this is the most offensive-minded we’ve been in years,” said Paton, who is in her 13th year coaching the team.

The other regular starters from last year who are back are: goalkeeper Amy Boden, defenders Amanda Burriesci, Lissette Garcia, Shannon Wilmott and Lauren Woodhull, and midfielders Brieanne Bieber, Pip Ross and Tori Tremble. Midfielders Michelle Borge and Priscilla Zerdas, forward AnnaMae Charles and defender Shannon Vetack also have varsity backgrounds.

Delina Aucielo, a freshman, is expected to make an impact as an outside midfielder. Katherine Kalezewski, a junior defender, is a transfer from New Jersey with good ball skills.

Also new to the team are defenders Grace Cassidy, Nicole Stezzacatena and Brittany Kryzewski, and forwards Javiera Acevedo and Olivia Schumann.

Paton said the team has more depth than it has had in the past, and her players have something else beyond that. “They never give up,” she said. “They just never, never quit, never stop.”