Terri Cilento is new to coaching high school varsity boys soccer, but she’s no stranger to her players.
“I’ve known many of these kids since they were five or six years old,” she said.
Cilento coached many of her players in the Highland United Soccer Club and was their teacher/modified soccer coach at Highland Middle School.
Now, she’s coaching them on Highland’s varsity team, as the only woman leading a varsity boys soccer program in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s coverage area.
“She’s been coaching us forever,” Highland senior Joseph Dolan said. “She just brings a serenity to the program. She has a great knowledge of the game and knows what’s she’s talking about.
“She’s very positive. If you mess up, she’ll tell us to try again and get better. There is no negativity.”
Cilento grew up in a soccer family in New Jersey before becoming a 1986 National Soccer Coaches Athletic Association of America All-American as a senior defender at Ithaca College. She was the state collegiate tournament’s most valuable player in leading Ithaca to title. She also started playing lacrosse at Ithaca and now is a girls varsity lacrosse co-coach at Highland.
Cilento, known as “Coach C” to her players and physical education students, takes over a program with a rich history, but has struggled in recent years until stepping forward to win a Mid-Hudson Athletic League divisional title in 2013.
Last year, three women were head coaches of Section 9 boys varsity soccer teams — Sonia Kidney at Eldred, Debbie Simpson at Liberty and Debbie Owen at Sullivan West.
“She runs a different type of practice and it’s going to help us,” Highland senior Ian Bogdanowicz said. “We’ve been around her forever and it’s nice to have her with us. She’s very encouraging and she knows how to teach the sport.”
Under former head coach Frank Alfonso, the Huskies started 2013 at 6-0-1 before finishing up 8-5-3 with a first-round loss to Liberty in the Section 9 Class B playoffs.
“We had a good streak at the beginning,” Highland senior Mitchell Dorn said. “We started to get cocky and thought we’d get farther than we did. We didn’t keep the momentum up. We slowed down. We still made sectionals but we should have done better.”
All is well through the first three days of preseason in Highland. Cilento continued conditioning her players Wednesday to get them ready for the regular season.
“We’ve done a lot of running and conditioning. We’re all excited and looking forward to the season. Nobody talks about us much. We’ve been the underdogs for a while, but we’re on the way back up and we hope to do some big things,” Bogdanowicz said.
Cilento and the Huskies hope to build off last season in 2014 by finishing strong and reaching the postseason again.
“They are getting here early and are ready to go,” Cilento said. “We have high hopes. We are going one day at a time and working on things we need to work on. How we do remains to be seen. But as I see it right now, they’re working hard, I’m working hard and I would expect a good season.”
Dan Pietrafesa: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4849, Twitter: @PJDanPietrafesa