High School Soccer Preview:Dolphins,Spartans Clash
Most of the players who returned this season to compete say they were heartbroken, but also disgusted by losing to their PSAL Queens 'BI' Division rivals.
No matter what accomplishment the Dolphins achieved in the 2006 regular season by winning the division title and going undefeated, head coach Dominic Stanco knows it was the Spartans and not his Dolphins team that eventually advanced to the PSAL championship.
"No, don't bring it up, I don't know what you're talking about," Stanco jokingly said. "It definitely left a sour taste in our mouth. The guys from last year, they remember."
The team's mindset is certainly focused on upending John Adams, who they consider one of the main obstacles in getting to a PSAL championship. They'll get that chance on Tuesday, September 11 when they travel to Adams' field at 4 p.m.
"Every year, I consider ourselves a team who can get to the championship," Stanco said.
"They (John Adams) made it to the championship and they are in our division. It just goes to show we're just as good as any team in the city. And I feel we can be."
But the memories still vividly remain from last year. Stanco knows he'll have to get enough production to replace key departures from that team, which included Dewey and Deconte Johnson, Dave Scott, Roman Ivanov and Erik Rengifo.
Rengifo may be missed the most. The midfielder was the centerpiece of the Dolphin team, which had risen from the bottom of the standings a few years ago, to reaching the quarterfinals in two consecutive years.
The Dolphins will have to replace Rengifo's skill and tenacity. Rengifo will be a freshman at Molloy College and was a starter for the United States National Soccer Under-18 Team this summer in the world championships in Osaka, Japan.
Stanco believes he has the pieces to once again contend for a division title. For that to happen, the Dolphins will need Marlon Velasquez to continue putting goals in the net, which he has done 42 times in his high school career. The newly named co-captain says he's expected to contribute more than just scoring and harassment of defenders. He needs to provide leadership and some support to the younger players.
"We got some new players and they bring a lot to the table. We can't give up. I don't want to give up," Velasquez said.
"This whole team thinks we can go far." Stanco says his four defenders, Slawomir Wloch, Alpha Dia, Chris Frey and Dustin Lara, may be the strongest area of the team because of their experience and skill.
Jose Baires will be paired with Velasquez as the two starting forwards. Alpha Dia moves from goalkeeper to center midfield where he'll start with three-year-starter Eduardo Flores.
For the Dolphins to believe they can be a viable contender, Flores says the team must get off to a flying start.
Last year's loss remains painful every time he steps on the field. He wants to begin to cast that memory aside with a victory, when his team faces what Flores says is their fiercest and toughest rival, on Tuesday.
"John Adams is our cross-town rival. We don't like them. They don't like us. That's the way we look at it," Flores said.
"Before the game, we may be friends but when its time to play, it's time to play. I think about Adams and on September 11, that's where we are going to start it off."
Until the day the Far Rockaway Seahorses step on the Franklin K. Lane field on September 11, head coach William Neylon will continue to look for players to fill the roster.
Neylon is not just looking for bodies to fill the roster. He's searching for some talented players who could give the Seahorses a better chance to improve on the 2-10 record they accumulated in 2006.
"We got until September 11 to find someone. The goalkeeper position is the most uncertain," Neylon said during a practice last week.
Finding a starting goalkeeper is an issue, but Neylon is confident that he will find someone to fill the position permanently.
"I'm sure that we'll have a team ready to go. It may not be our best team on September 11 for our first scheduled match, but I'll have a team."
While he tries to secure a goalkeeper, Neylon has penciled in a few starters in the midfield and in the forward positions. He says that appears to be the team's strength.
Stanley Saintil was the Seahorses' top scorer last year with nine goals. The senior will be one of the starting forwards this year.
Miguel Estrada returns from an injury-plagued 2006 and the senior is expected to start in the midfield. Neylon is very impressed with the performance of Elver Marroquin, who could be a factor scoring goals from his center midfield position.
The Seahorses are weak, though, at defense and at the goalkeeper position. Until he can plug the holes, Neylon knows that scoring goals won't be enough to win games.
"My first impression is that this will be an attacking team. The defense hasn't been settled yet and that might be a question, especially if the goalkeeping position isn't filled," Neylon said.
"We have a lot of talented midfields and forwards but you don't win games unless you have a balance upfront and in the back."
Stella Maris Retools
Last November, Stella Maris fell one goal short in the CHSAA Brooklyn/ Queens Diocesan playoff semifinals, losing 2-1 on the road to Bishop Kearney. The deflating loss was the final game for nine seniors on the team, which included such stars as Elzabeth Murray and Michelle Raaf.
With an almost new cast, the Flippers will begin their 2007 campaign on September 13 at Fort Tilden against St. Agnes. That game will start at 4 p.m.