Last season was one of the most impressive in recent memory for scholastic boys soccer in the Hudson Valley.
Five area high schools — Arlington in Class AA, New Paltz in Class A, Spackenkill in Class B, Rhinebeck in Class C and Webutuck in Class D — won sectional championships. Section 9’s Spackenkill, Rhinebeck and Webutuck each came a win shy of the state final four. Section 1’s Arlington won a state championship.
It’s a new season and teams are aware of the challenges ahead. Despite losing key personnel, including Journal all-stars Jeff Greblick, Alex Fazio, Collin Illiano and Ryan Miller, Arlington has reloaded, mixing experience and youth.
“We have very good team chemistry,” said Arlington senior forward David Verdis, who had 14 goals and five assists, including the state-title winning goal against Brentwood. “It’s coming together pretty well right now. We’ve still got a lot of work to do before the season starts.”
Verdis said Arlington’s goals — a league title, a sectional title and a state title — remain the same as last year.
“We need to get 11 players behind the ball, play defense and play hard,” Verdis said. “Defense leads to offense, which can lead to championships.”
In addition to forwards like Verdis and Peter Garson, and two-way player Eric Eastman at center midfield, Arlington coach Craig Sanborn said the defense, led by returners Pat Mogan, Kevin Hoff, Dan Weiss and Austin Schweitzer can help Arlington compete.
“We’re going to rely on those guys to keep us in every match,” Sanborn said.
Arlington is back where it should be, Sanborn said — in a league that includes local rivals John Jay and Roy C. Ketcham. The rest of the makeup of Section 1’s Conference 1 League A is Mahopac, Carmel and Somers.
“Us, Jay and Ketcham belong in the same league,” Sanborn said. “We’ve been there forever until the last couple of years.”
John Jay coach Rob Seipp’s Patriots won the League A title last year while Arlington competed in League B.
“We kind of got lucky the last two years not being in Arlington’s league,” Seipp said. “This year, the first goal is always to get that league title and obviously, it’s incredibly difficult with the defending state champs in the league.”
This year, the Patriots are moving All-Section 1 defender Brian Vigorita to forward to complement Nate Mansfield. John Jay toyed with the idea of holding as many as 10 players on a practice squad, but ended up making cuts and going with a roster of 24. Seipp said the idea didn’t work because of a variety of factors from available playing time to practice space to number of jerseys.
“The East Fishkill Soccer Club, like the LaGrange Soccer Club, is such a strong youth program and they feed us and Arlington so many good soccer players,” Seipp said. “I can’t tell you how difficult (making cuts) is with so many good players.”
In Section 9, Spackenkill and Rhinebeck cannot both repeat as sectional champions as Rhinebeck’s Hawks, powered by senior forwards Seth McClenahan and Nick Hoynes, moved up in enrollment to Class B. Spackenkill returns stalwart goalkeeper Blake Kawalski, who will return early in the season from offseason clavicle surgery.
New Paltz will compete locally in Section 9 Class A with Red Hook and Mid-Hudson Athletic League finalist Marlboro, which has a new coach in Brian Barbulean. Our Lady of Lourdes, Beacon and Poughkeepsie will compete for the Class A title in Section 1.
While Rhinebeck moved up to Class B, Section 9 Class D champion Webutuck moves up and will now compete in Class C.