The parade through the Village of Rhinebeck, surrounded by cheering fans and illuminated by the flashing lights of a motorcade, is nine months in the past.
But the energy infused into the Rhinebeck High School boys soccer program by its state championship last November has survived the long wait for the fall sports season to return anew.
“Rhinebeck is a very small community and I saw some of the guys over the summer,” Rhinebeck boys soccer coach Justin Wiesenthal said. “Everyone is excited to get back and play.”
That enthusiasm has enveloped Wiesenthal’s players, too.
“It’s a big year to play up again,” said senior Ryan Euell, who poured in the winning goals in both the state semifinal and state final games last fall. “We realize it’s a new season and nothing’s going to come easy.
“I think everyone on the team is willing to put in their fair share of work so we can go far this season.”
On Monday, the Hawks, along with the rest of the mid-Hudson Valley’s athletes, get their wish with the first official practices of the fall preseason.
And, the Hawks are far from the only area team with residual enthusiasm built through success one year ago. In all, 12 area teams earned sectional titles last fall, including the Haldane girls soccer team that won a state championship, and numerous football teams that made 2014 one of the best seasons Dutchess County has ever had in the sport.
The varied accomplishments have been a motivating factor thus far in the summer for groups like the John Jay football team, which has held informal workouts since July 6.
“We’ve been getting after it this summer,” said John Jay coach Tom O’Hare, whose Patriots became the first Dutchess County team to win a Section 1 Class AA title last year, by defeating Arlington in the first time two Dutchess teams met in the Section 1 title game. “Of course with the success last year, the kids want to come out and give a strong showing. They have to put in the work and the effort.”
New York State is divided into 11 different geographic sections for scholastic competition. Section 1 is comprised of athletes from Dutchess, Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, while Section 9 includes schools from Dutchess, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan counties. Competition is then further divided by school enrollment, from Class AA for the largest schools to Class D for the smallest. Rhinebeck and Haldane were both Class C state soccer champions.
In addition to John Jay, Millbrook’s football squad earned the first state-playoff victory in its school’s history and reached the state semifinals in Class C. Not to be outdone, the Marlboro football team reached the Class B state semifinals for the second consecutive year.
The Highland boys soccer team earned a sectional title in its first season under head coach Terri Cilento, and the program’s first crown since 1997. The Spackenkill volleyball team captured the first sectional title in its program’s history, while the school’s girls soccer team claimed a fourth consecutive sectional championship.
O’Hare is confident in his group again for 2015. Yet, he said that he doesn’t want his players to get wrapped up in reflecting on the winning that has already become history.
“This year’s team has to learn what happened last year is closed and it doesn’t guarantee us anything for this year,” he said. “Our goal is to improve and play our best football.”
Likewise, last season proved memorable for other John Jay teams, as well. Thanks to a goal in the fourth minute of overtime from Kevin Turi, the Patriots captured a Section 1 Class AA boys soccer title last fall, their first since 2008.
However, an inauspicious origin. Coach Rob Seipp said his team entered the preseason low on energy, a lasting gloom leftover from a tight sectional semifinal loss to rival Arlington in 2013.
This year, the coach doesn’t anticipate those problems.
“There will be a lot more enthusiasm and happiness,” Seipp said, “but I’ll remind them how hard they have to work to achieve the success of last year.”
Haldane coach Gary Van Asselt said the state championship, in which his team carved out a 1-0 victory on an Allie Monteleone goal, is still fresh in his Blue Devils’ minds as Monday approaches.
“I’ve gotten a lot of kids saying they can’t wait, and the coaches are pumped up,” he said. “It’s a carry-over effect. Everybody knows they’re coming back as a team, as one unit.”
And then there’s the Rhinebeck Hawks, whose run to the trophy seemed sprinkled by fairy dust.
Rhinebeck won last year’s state semifinal in head-turning fashion, tying the game with a goal off the head of Laurence Graziano with eight seconds left to play. The Hawks then clawed out a 1-0 decision from the crown, with Euell scoring the winning goal.
Now, Wiesenthal is expecting the same kind of energy to be in the air when his team begins its first preseason practice.
“Last year we had a lot of great players come through and set the tone,” Wiesenthal said. “We’re excited to get going and just get on the field with each other.”
A.J. Martelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports
Follow preseason online
Check out all the action from the first day of preseason on Monday by using hashtag #PJCamp on Twitter, following Journal reporters Stephen Haynes (@StephenHaynes4) and A.J. Martelli (@AJM_PoJoSports), and by visiting www.poughkeepsiejournal.com.
The Journal staff will be live tweeting throughout the day, with pictures, videos and thoughts as they travel to area teams’ camps. Online, find video interviews, photos and in-depth accounts of the practices.
The Journal reporters will visit with new teams every day of the preseason, as the 2015-16 high school year approaches.