Boys soccer: Semifinal previews and predictions

Boys soccer: Semifinal previews and predictions

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Boys soccer: Semifinal previews and predictions

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New Rochelle defeats Mahopac 2-0 in the first round of Class AA boys soccer playoffs at New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

New Rochelle defeats Mahopac 2-0 in the first round of Class AA boys soccer playoffs at New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle on Thursday, October 20, 2016.

Class AA 

No. 5 Scarsdale (9-4-2) vs. No. 8 New Rochelle (9-4-3) 

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Scarsdale HS

Key players: Sc — Luca Novaes, Jr., F; Fayez Merchant, Jr., D; Michael Spiro, Sr., MF. NR — Harwan Alzuabidi, Sr., F; Omar Tejada, Sr., MF; Felipe Tobon, Jr., D.

Previous meeting(s): Scarsdale won 1-0 on Sept. 28 and they tied 1-1 on Oct. 17

Outlook: There will be three semifinals on Wednesday which pit league opponents against each other, with this being one of them. Scarsdale got the better of the rivalry during the regular season, so based on those results and the fact that they’ll be playing on their home turf, the Raiders should enter this one as a slight favorite. The recent emergence of Novaes, who has now scored in five consecutive games, is another good indication for Scarsdale. He’s given coach Paul Brooks a dynamic presence up top, which was something that may have been lacking earlier in the season. Overall, the Raiders are a tactically-sound team which rarely makes strategic mistakes. There are two areas where the Huguenots may have an advantage, though: Athleticism and depth. Coach Jarohan Garcia is not shy about going to his bench frequently, which helps keep his players fresh. And when he does, there isn’t a noticeable drop-off. Garcia also employs an unconventional goalie rotation, with seniors Danny Ayala and Ryan Goldstein alternating starts. (Ayala is in line to start on Wednesday.) It’s worked so far, with the Huguenots allowing more than one goal just once all season. Both teams are strong defensively, so I’m expecting a fairly low-scoring affair. One goal will likely be the difference, and after pulling off the biggest upset of the playoffs thus far against top-seeded Mamaroneck, I’m beginning to believe in the Huguenots.

Prediction: New Rochelle 1, Scarsdale 0

No. 3 Arlington (12-5-1) vs. No. 10 Ossining (10-6-1)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Arlington HS

Key players: Arl — Tristan Battistoni, Jr., MF; Will Kautsky, Sr., D; Peter Petrillo, Sr., F. Oss — Nolan Lenaghan, Fr., MF; Mateo Marra, So., MF; Miguel Marra, Sr., F.

Previous meeting(s): Ossining won 2-1 on Sept. 12

Outlook: Anyone who doubted the defending champs has to be having second thoughts by now. There has been a lot of craziness in the AA field so far in these playoffs, with three of the four home teams losing in the quarterfinals. Which was the only one to slip through to the semis? That’s right, none other than the most consistent program in Section 1 for the last five years. If there’s one thing that we can count on, year in and year out, it’s that Arlington will compete for a title. The names in the starting lineup may change, but the level of play rarely does. It took the Admirals some time to break in several new starters this year, but they’ve now won 11 of their last 12, including eight straight. (Well, technically they tied Horace Greeley in their last game, but they advanced on penalty kicks.) Ossining, on the other hand, hasn’t gone this far in the playoffs in quite some time. The Pride started off strong this season at 5-0-1, but faltered towards the end of the season and didn’t enter sectionals with much buzz. They’ve gone on the road and knocked off higher seeds in No. 7 Ketcham and No. 2 Yorktown, thanks in large part to the emergence of Lenaghan. He’s scored four of Ossining’s five postseason goals, which has taken some of the heat off of leading-scorer Miguel Marra (16 goals). Those two will be a handful for Arlington to deal with, and they have the Pride playing with newfound confidence. It’s also important to remember that Ossining came out on top when they met in the regular season. That tells me there will be no intimidation factor when the Pride take the field, which is why I think they can keep this run going.

Prediction: Ossining 2, Arlington 1

Pearl River beat Nanuet 2-1 in overtime of a Class A boys soccer quarterfinal at Pear River Oct. 24, 2016.

Pearl River beat Nanuet 2-1 in overtime of a Class A boys soccer quarterfinal at Pear River Oct. 24, 2016.

Class A

No. 1 Pearl River (14-2-2) vs. No. 4 Lakeland (13-3-2)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Pearl River HS

Key players: PR — Kevin Doorley, Sr., MF; Craig MacDonald, Sr., F; Christian Madigan, Sr., D. Lk — Nick Estrella, Sr., GK; Nick Foci, Sr., F; Matias Prando, Sr., MF.

Previous meeting(s): PR won 3-0 on Sept. 5

Outlook: These teams don’t play in the same league, but they have a rivalry that is as intense as any that you’ll find. They’ve made a habit of playing every year, and after years of domination from Lakeland, Pearl River has seized control. The Pirates have won their last three meetings, most recently at the fourth annual Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge. The score may be a bit deceiving, as the Hornets won the possession battle and created more chances in the first half, but were hurt by their inability to finish. You can bet that Pearl River coach Damon O’Keefe won’t allow his team to get overconfident. Lakeland has done a better job of finding the back of the net recently, led by Foci (14 goals) and Prando (nine goals and 10 assists). The result has been 10 consecutive wins. The Pirates have been led the trio of Doorley, MacDonald and Denis Fleming, who have combined to score 40 goals this season. MacDonald had the winner against Nanuet in the quarterfinals, which prevented a major upset. Was that game a wake-up call for Pearl River? Or did it expose a weakness? I tend to think it’s the former, and given the recent history, it would be difficult to pick against the defending champs.

Prediction: Pearl River 2, Lakeland 1

No. 2 Byram Hills (14-2-2) vs. No. 3 Somers (15-2-1)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Byram Hills HS

Key players: BH — Jack Beer, Sr., MF; Matt Groll, Sr., GK; Ryan Noel, Jr., MF. Som — Luke Bugoni, Sr., D; Evan Keiltyka, Sr., MF; Jack Maher, Sr., MF.

Previous meeting(s): None

Outlook: In one corner, you have a perennial contender which will be playing in its 11th consecutive semifinal. In the other, you have an up-and-coming program that looks like it could be here to stay. I mentioned that Arlington has been the most consistent program in Section 1 for the last five years, but if you want to extend that to 10-12 years, the answer is probably Byram Hills. Coach Matty Allen has developed a program that you can pencil in for 12-plus wins and a deep playoff run every single year. And with a tremendous senior class, led by the Georgetown-bound Beer (16 goals and 10 assists), the Bobcats are right in the thick of it again. That’s what first-year coach Brian Lanzetta is hoping to establish at Somers, and he’s on the right track. The Tuskers were one of the best stories of the regular season after starting 11-0, and they appear to have some staying power. The defense has been outstanding with 12 shutouts on the year, but the offense has lacked some consistency in recent weeks. Maher (12 goals) stepped up in the quarters against Keio, and there is some young talent which Lanzetta feels can ease the burden. I expect Somers to remain a contender for years to come, but at this point, it would be difficult to bet against a team with the pedigree that Byram has.

Prediction: Byram Hills 1, Somers 0

Hastings tops Blind Brook 3-0 in boys soccer action at Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook on Tuesday, October 11, 2016.

Hastings tops Blind Brook 3-0 in boys soccer action at Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook on Tuesday, October 11, 2016.

Class B

No. 1 Rye Neck (15-2) vs. No. 4 Blind Brook (11-6-1)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Rye Neck HS

Key players: RN — Luis Galeano, Sr., F; Pierre Klur, Sr., MF; Reed Peterson, Sr., MF. BB — Oliver Kleban, Sr., MF; Joao Souza, Sr., F; Paul Trokie, Sr., MF.

Previous meeting(s): Rye Neck won 1-0 on Sept. 22 and Blind Brook won 2-1 on Oct. 6

Outlook: Before Rye Neck won a section championship in 2014, it was Blind Brook which ruled Class B. The Trojans won three straight titles from 2011-13 and feel that they have the goods to get back on top. They went through a rough patch towards the end of the regular season with four straight losses, but they’ve now won four straight and seem to have straightened out their issues. A big reason for the improved play has been the return of Souza, who announced his presence by scoring the lone goal in Monday’s quarterfinal win over Valhalla. He represents Blind Brook’s most dangerous offensive weapon, though Kleban and Trokie have also had their moments. And with goalkeeper Jordan Schoen anchoring things in the back, the Trojans have been solid all around. They split in two games this season, which represented Rye Neck’s lone league loss. That familiarity should benefit Blind Brook, but there’s a lot to like about this Panthers’ roster. That team that won it all in ’14 was loaded with sophomores, which is now a deep and talented senior class. Galeano is the big name and leading scorer with 10 goals, but there are a lot of other weapons for co-coaches Bryan Iacovelli and Frank Gizzo. They’ve been to two straight section finals, and I think this group of seniors can make it three in a row.

Prediction: Rye Neck 1, Blind Brook 0

No. 2 Hastings (15-1-1) vs. No. 3 Bronxville (12-6)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Reynolds Field in Hastings-on-Hudson

Key players: Hs — Alex Bourgeois, Jr., D; Oscar Pereira, Sr., D; Jackson Silverstein, Sr., F. Bx — Jeb Burnell, Jr., F; Mac Crawford, Jr., D; Will Vranka, Sr., MF.

Previous meeting(s): Hastings won 3-0 on Oct. 15

Outlook: When these two met a couple weeks ago, it wasn’t particularly close. That means that anything other than a Yellow Jackets win would be a big surprise, but there are reasons to believe this game will be closer than the previous one. Bronxville sat a key player or two in that game to protect them from injury and cards in its final regular season game, but the Broncos will be at full strength on Wednesday. Burnell has emerged with 14 goals and six assists to give coach Donny Lucas another option besides Vranka, who was an All-Section pick last year. They’ll need to do a good job of possessing the ball and keeping it away from Hastings, which has the most explosive attack in Class B. The Jackets have added five former U.S. Academy system players to a team which won the title last year, and the additional talent has had a positive impact all over the field. The West Point-bound Pereira is the biggest standout, leading the team with 15 goals and 10 assists while often dropping back to center back and working as a shutdown defender. Look for him to move around, depending on the situation. Hastings survived an overtime scare against Edgemont in the quarters and will need to play better to get by a team of Bronxville’s caliber, but I’m not jumping off the bandwagon now. When the Jackets are clicking, they’ll be very difficult to beat.

Prediction: Hastings 3, Bronxville 1

Class C

No. 1 North Salem (11-5) vs. No. 4 Hamilton (9-8)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: North Salem HS

Key players: NS — Michael Bossi, So., MF; Jake Leicht, Sr., D; Mike Selzer, Sr., F. Ham — Julian Espinosa, Sr., MF; Luis Rodriguez, Sr., F; Danny Valle-Ortiz, Sr., D.

Previous meeting(s): North Salem won 3-0 on Sept. 16

Outlook: The improved depth in Class C has been obvious this year, with all of the teams in the class playing each other more competitively than we’ve seen in recent seasons. North Salem’s addition is a big reason why, and the Tigers have emerged as the No. 1 seed thanks to a strong regular season. They’ve been getting contributions from all over, with five players who have scored at least three goals. Selzer is their top finisher, but the depth makes it difficult to focus on one player. North Salem has benefitted from returning most of its starters from 2015, and it’s held up well against larger schools. Hamilton played in the section championship game last season and still has some capable scorers, led by Rodriguez and his 14 goals. The Red Raiders tend to perform well in the playoffs, but their most recent meeting with the Tigers wasn’t particularly encouraging. For that reason, North Salem has to be the pick.

Prediction: North Salem 3, Hamilton 1

No. 2 Solomon Schechter (9-4) vs. No. 3 Haldane (7-6-2)

When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Where: Solomon Schechter HS

Key players: SS — Noah Dunn, Sr., GK; Miles Ogihara, Jr., F; Jonathan Rand, Sr., MF. Hal — Blaine Fitzgerald, Sr., GK; Andre van Dommele, Jr., MF; Seth Warren, Sr., F.

Previous meeting(s): Schechter won 5-0 on Sept. 7

Outlook: It’s been a nice bounce back season for Haldane after a down year in 2015, but this will be a difficult matchup. The Blue Devils played Schechter earlier season and got routed, so it would take quite the turnaround to pull off the upset. They have played much better since, led by a defense which has only allowed more than one goal twice all season. Fitzgerald stands at 6-foot-7 in goal and is very difficult to beat. Schechter has an excellent goalie, as well, in Dunn, who was an All-State selection last year due to his stellar play on the Lions’ run to the state final. In the last few years, Schechter has earned the reputation as the annual favorite in Class C because of the strides it has taken in the state tournament. The Lions have many of their key players back from last year’s run, including Ogihara (16 goals) and Rand (nine goals and seven assists). A loss at this early juncture would be a shocker for a team which believes it can compete for more than just a Section 1 championship.

Prediction: Schechter 2, Haldane 0

Twitter: @vzmercogliano

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