Our pal Mike Zacchio spent the morning in Rockland. Here’s his report from his visit with last season’s Class A runner-up Pearl River:
If there’s one thing Pearl River never has to worry about on the soccer field, it’s hearing coach Damon O’Keefe. His deep, authoritative voice rings through the air thanks to the architecture of the school’s campus.
Another thing the Pirates likely won’t have to worry about too much is senior leadership. Pearl River boasts five seniors on this year’s roster, including second-year captain Vincenzo Galvano.
There was speculation that Galvano, a defenseman, would play more of an offensive role this season, but O’Keefe is doubtful, although he is leaving the possibility open.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We were maybe looking to do that more last year than anything.”
Galvano was part of a defensive line that allowed just nine goals all season en route to an appearance in the Class A section final. Pearl River has an all-senior defensive line this year, which should make up for any loss of offense due to graduation.
“What this team does is, we support each other all the way through,” Galvano said. “No pointing fingers, none of that, a lot of just getting on each other’s backs and pushing each other.”
• O’Keefe said the game plan this week is to focus on team chemistry. Pearl River has a lot of young talent, with more than a dozen juniors on the roster, and some players coming in from the outside.
• Forward Matt Russell joins the varsity team this year after transferring from Albertus Magnus, and Craig McDonald left his Academy team to play for the Pirates.
• Given the team’s youth (five seniors, 14 juniors), O’Keefe didn’t seem too concerned. “We have great captains, great leaders; we’re very happy with our seniors this year, as leaders” he said. “Maturity-wise, we’re starting to try to break some bad habits. Every day, we’re just getting better and better.”
• Even with 14 juniors on the team, six are returning varsity players. O’Keefe said that two players he’s expecting a lot out of this year are Sean Coughlan and Manuel Arango. During the team’s in-house scrimmage, both Coughlan and Arango scored. Arango, playing defense, was at about the midway point (they were going side-to-side, not end-to-end) of the field when he sniped a rebound goal into the top-left shelf of the net.
• O’Keefe said the team hopes to make a run for the section championship again this season, but more importantly, improve as a team. “Our goals are always the same, pretty simple: play together, play as a unit, continue to work hard every single day, try to better ourselves every day,” he said.
• Galvano seems optimistic about this year’s squad. “The team looks good, honestly,” he said. “We have a lot of hungry kids out there.” The captain showed his leadership in the interview, preaching the importance of team chemistry.
• Now in his senior year, Galvano has not forgotten about last year’s section final loss and neither have the returning players. “We’re really hungry (to get back),” he said. “Some of these guys, they know the feeling of being there; they want to be there again.” Galvano continued, “It’s important we bring that message across to the other guys who haven’t been there, just to tell them that it’s worth it; it’s totally worth it, and it’s what we’re working for.”