A year older and a year wiser, the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys soccer team could be on the verge of starting something big.
The Wildcats have as many as nine starters and 17 players returning from a team that finished 6-9 and out of the playoffs last fall.
“We’re pretty experienced this year,” coach Andrew Moschetti said. “We’re looking at seniors to lead us to the playoffs. That’s our goal.”
In high school sports, experience can go a long way, and for the Wildcats, that path could lead to the postseason. They haven’t been there for two years.
Their preseason was quite encouraging, finishing fourth at 5-3-2 among 11 schools in the small schools division in the Brookhaven Summer Soccer League before being eliminated in the semifinals of the playoffs.
If the Wildcats accomplished that this fall, it would be considered a pretty decent season.
“We hope that momentum will continue into the season,” Moschetti said.
Shoreham returns a pair of all-county selections — senior central midfielder/striker Doug DeMaio, who is expected to be the team’s top goal scorer, and senior sweeper Kiernan Clasen, who will be helped by another senior, stopper Austin Hutchins.
For another season, senior midfielder Danny Mahoney will find himself in double duty — playing for both the school’s soccer and football teams. He will kick for the Long Island Class IV champion football team when he isn’t booting soccer balls into the net.
“I’ve been working with coach [Matthew] Millheiser,” Moschetti said. “We work around any conflicts, whatever is best for SWR athletics.”
The midfield is just loaded with experience and four seniors. Jack Del Duca will patrols the flanks and Patrick Tooher and Cameron Weber will man the center spots.
Moschetti has the luxury of rotating six or seven players on defense, which will allow him to rest players or deploy them in certain tactical situations.
“This year the guys coming in as subs keep us at the same level when we substitute,” he said. “It’s something we didn’t have last year.”
If there is a concern of inexperience, it could be goal where junior Nick Cusano, who hasn’t play with the varsity team, except during the summer league, will guard the net.
“He knows the game extremely well,” Moschetti said. “He’s not tested in a varsity game yet. That defense in front of him will make him a better goalkeeper because it’s so strong.”
The Wildcats will find out soon enough.
For the first time in his five years as Riverhead’s coach, Lamine Traore is more optimistic and encouraged than usual about his team, which went 5-10 last year.
That’s because the Blue Waves competed in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League for the first time. They lost in penalty kicks to Newfield, 1-0, in the second round of the playoffs after going a respectable 4-4-2 during the regular season.
Just an important as wins and losses, the players bonded together on and off the field.
“I thought that was great,” Traore said. “I think we’ll bring it to the season.”
Traore said he was impressed with “the way the boys conducted themselves on and off the field.” He added: “They’re like friends off the field. They like to do everything together. That’s a good sign for this year.”
It’s also a good sign that two seniors who can be game-changers will return to the Blue Waves’ fold — captain Phillip Barabanov and central midfielder Adrian Guazhambo, who also can play up front. “He’s going to be key,” Traore said of Guazhambo.
The same can be said of Barabanov, who is expected to shoulder a load of the scoring responsibilities.
“He’s doing great,” Traore said. “He’s one of the most consistent players I have in Riverhead. When he’s on, he makes the game about himself and makes it easier for us.”
Midfielders Lucas Canel, a senior, and Darwin Villatoro, a sophomore, also are expected to be impact players for the Blue Waves.
Traore is upbeat about his team’s prospects in League III.
“Team spirit is going to help us a lot,” Traore said. “It’s easier to coach friends. I can call them a team. That’s a plus for us.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy (1-11) hopes that two heads are better than one.
Dave Steinhauer and Carl Vacarro have been named co-coaches, replacing Frank Baker.
“We’ve worked together in the past,” Steinhauer said. “We have similar philosophies. I’ll put together a drill and he’ll tweak it. He’ll put together a drill and I’ll tweak it.”
While the Monarchs might lead League VI in coaches, only 14 players have come out for the team.
Steinhauer, who was an assistant coach of the McGann-Mercy girls team, has been impressed with four players — senior forward Alex Frabrizio, junior center back Griffin Carter, sophomore forward Merc Osinski and sophomore midfielder Nick Ruggieri.
“We’re optimistic,” he said. “We were brought in to change the culture of the program. We’ll see if we can bring the boys forward.”
Steinhauer likes the team’s prospects.
“Based on the record I’ve seen in the past, they’re pretty good,” he said. “I can’t tell you about past coaches and their philosophies. I have some players. That’s always a good sign. Right now the hurdle is more than two wins.”
Photo Caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s top goal scorer from last year, all-county player Doug DeMaio, shooting during a drill at Tuesday’s practice. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)