The John Jay High School boys soccer team graduated seven starters from last year’s Section 1 Class AA championship squad. Still, even the new starters on Monday said their eyes were on another title and they insisted this team — even during a rebuild — can get it done.
That seems like a leap of faith.
But then, that’s nothing new to this group.
Unique team bonding
During the summer, the Patriots came up with a new team-bonding exercise. It involved jumping off stuff. Really tall stuff.
“Cliff jumping!” senior Kevin Turi exclaimed. “Every few weeks, we got together in Beacon and went for it. …You don’t even think about it and psyche yourself out. Just jump.”
The typical jumps were from 40 feet, they said, but Matt Oliveira and Dylan Tremblay attempted jumps from upwards of 60 feet. “We nicknamed them ‘The young savages,’ ” junior Nick Gartner said. “They’re a little too brave.”
But that kind of mettle, perhaps, can serve the team well.
New talent off the bench
“We did lose seven starters, but we probably had seven guys on the bench who could’ve been starting,” Turi said. “I think we’re reloaded.”
And Turi will be the primary shooter. The left forward is the Patriots’ most talented and experienced player on the front line, and they will rely on him to score.
The senior spent most of his summer attending soccer camps, seeking to improve his footwork and become an even better finisher.
Tom Dillmann will shift from the right side to center back. His twin brother, Nick, also will move from the outside to center midfielder.
Tom Dillmann will “have to orchestrate more,” he said, but he is a strong on-the-ball defender with solid passing ability. Nick Dillmann said he primarily played center-mid on his travel team, which should ease the transition.
Midfielder Rishi Sharma also is expected to have a big impact, and Seipp said he believes midfielders Diego Bastone and Mike Ciardullo and defenders Gartner and Luke Melvin could emerge as standouts.
“Those guys are all really good on the ball,” Nick Dillman said. “Once they get more experience, they’ll be fine.”
Junior Harrison Kaplan, the primary backup last year, is in contention for the starting goalie position. “I’ll need to get more experience, but I’m confident in my athleticism,” said Kaplan, who at 6-foot-2 has good range and reach. “If I continue working hard, I really believe I can be good.”
Who stands in the way?
Arlington and Roy C. Ketcham are again loaded and among the favorites, Patriots coach Rob Seipp said. John Jay lost three of its four starting defenders and the goalie. “We’ll be good between the 18s,” Seipp said, “but we’ll have to focus on scoring and stopping teams from scoring.”
“I think expectations are always high when you play for John Jay soccer,” said Seipp, who had 70 players at the opening practice. “It is a rebuilding year, but East Fishkill Soccer Club does a great job producing good players that come up to us. I feel kind of bad because a lot of very good soccer players don’t even make the cut. We always have guys who can step in.”
John Jay ended its practices early for the football, soccer and field hockey teams as the heat rose above 90 degrees in the early afternoon. “It’s difficult to force the kids to even take breaks because they’re excited,” Seipp said, “but we have to be smart. It’s too hot.”
The sessions were scheduled to run until 3 p.m. but athletic director Kurt Jesman suggested they be cut short.
“We all do a lot of conditioning over the summer, but it’s still pretty tough practicing in this heat,” John Jay field hockey player Jessica Lasaponara said. “I think calling it early was the right decision.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
John Jay boys soccer
Section 1 Class AA
First game: Sept. 3, 5 p.m., at Mamaroneck
2014: 16-5-1 (won the Section 1 Class AA title)