Having graduated from Somers High in 2007 and worked at the local youth levels in the years that followed, Brian Lanzetta did not enter this season as your typical first-year varsity coach.
The 27-year-old was very familiar with the team that he was inheriting, and that’s why he liked their chances.
“I know all of these boys,” Lanzetta said. “I watched them grow up. These kids were all 9, 10, 11 years old at the camp when I was in college as a camp counselor.
“I said to myself, ‘I need to get that job. Not only is there talent there now, but I know the future is bright.’”
Entering Monday night’s regular season-finale against Lakeland, Lanzetta’s plan was coming to fruition. The Tuskers had the best record of any team in Class A at 13-1-1 and a win would have clinched the No. 1 seed and home field advantage, with the first round set to be played on Thursday.
Somers has been one of the best stories of the 2016 regular season, but as most coaches will tell you, the postseason can be humbling. Everyone wants to know about seeds, and rightfully so, but anything is possible in a one-and-done playoff format.
Throw the seeds, stats and records out the window. It’s all about which team finds a way to score one more goal.
“It’s high school soccer and anything can happen,” said Hastings coach Fred Sandhop, who led his team to a Class B title last season. “It depends on who shows up that day to play.”
Sandhop knows all too well how the regular season can be rendered meaningless once the playoffs begin. Last year, his Yellow Jackets lost to Rye Neck in the regular season finale, only to turn around and throttle the Panthers 4-0 in the section final.
With Hastings at 13-1-1 entering Monday and Rye Neck at 14-2 — ensuring that they’ll be seeded 1-2 in Class B — many believe they’re headed for a rematch in this year’s final. But Sandhop warned that the rest of the field shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Bronxville is another team that can get hot at the right moment, and all of a sudden, they’re walking in,” Sandhop said. “Blind Brook is a tough, scrappy team. Edgemont, Briarcliff, the normal cast of characters — they’re all well-coached teams with a lot of heart and desire to keep their season going.”
Class AA may have a somewhat obvious front-runner in Mamaroneck, which is the only team in the class with just one loss. The Tigers had already locked up the No. 1 seed entering play on Monday, but coach Rich Becker isn’t taking anything for granted.
Arlington has three of the last four AA titles sitting in its trophy case, while a host of others look like viable threats.
“There are six or seven or even eight teams that could come on at the right time,” Becker said. “Greeley and Arlington are coming on, we know Yorktown has the skill and our league is really skilled. I think New Ro and Scarsdale could be dangerous. You need some luck, and if the luck falls to someone else, anyone of those teams can be successful.”
True, there are about eight teams that like their chances in Class AA — I’d add Suffern and Ketcham to the list that Becker came up with — but Class A might be the deepest of them all. It looks like 25 or 26 teams could qualify in that class, which means lots of outbracket games on Wednesday and the potential for some upsets.
In my opinion, there are seven teams in Class A which have stood above the rest for most of the year — Somers, Pearl River, Tappan Zee, Byram Hills, Lakeland, Harrison and Rye — while others such as Beacon, Brewster, Eastchester, Keio and Nanuet look like serious challengers.
That’s 12 teams that no one would be shocked to see win it all, which will make the order of the seeds all the more important. Getting seeded in top three or four could go a long way toward avoiding a first-round scare.
“It’s been an outstanding year for Class A. I think it’s probably the most talented group we’ve had in a while,” said Damon O’Keefe, coach of defending Class A champion Pearl River. “We didn’t want to get caught up in the 4-5-6 (seed) range. To be home is nice. That’s where we want to be. We feel that our environment here at Pearl River is great, and our guys thrive on it.”
However it all shakes out, be prepared for it to happen fast. Once the official seeds are released on Tuesday, the games will come in rapid succession.
The most exciting (nerve-racking) and time of the year is upon us.