Four local boys soccer teams will have the opportunity to win a state championship this weekend, which is the first time that’s happened since 2008. All four will be heading to Middletown High, the site of the state semifinals and finals, which will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
To get you set for the action, and what to expect from the opponents of the Section 1 champions, here are previews for each game:
Class AA state semifinals
New Rochelle (12-4-4) vs. Section 8’s Calhoun (13-2)
When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Faller Field Turf at Middletown HS
Key players: NR— Harwan Alzuabidi, Sr., F; Omar Espinoza, Jr., MF; Omar Tejeda, Sr., MF; Felipe Tobon, Jr., D; Cristian Valencia, Sr., D. Cal — David Futterman, Sr., GK; Mike Harten, Sr., MF: Alex Sipos, So., MF; Eric Stewart, Sr., F; Joe Thomann, Sr., MF.
Outlook: Who would have thought we’d still be talking about the Huguenots well into November? New Ro surprised everyone by emerging from a deep Class AA field in Section 1 and continued its run of good fortune by outlasting Section 9 champ Newburgh Free Academy in overtime to win a regional title. The job that coach Jarohan Garcia has done since arriving prior to the 2014 season has been remarkable. He’s been able to harness the enviable soccer talent in New Ro, but more important, he brought the discipline and structure that the program may have been lacking a few short years ago. The Huguenots have responded in a meaningful way, and now here they are. Calhoun reaching this point isn’t quite as surprising, but the Colts also had to overcome some adversity. They were matched up against perennial state power Brentwood in the Long Island championship and pulled off the upset with a 3-2 overtime win. It was their third OT win of the postseason, which New Rochelle can relate to. The Huguenots advanced on penalty kicks twice during the Section 1 tournament. Stewart and Sipos are the leading scorers for Calhoun, and they both made their presences felt in the win over Brentwood. It will be more difficult for the Colts to focus on one or two players for New Ro because someone different seems to step up in each game, although Alzuabidi is probably the most dangerous player up top. The Huguenots are expected to stick to their goalkeeper rotation, which means that senior Danny Ayala will get the start here, and he’s been outstanding throughout the playoffs. They’ve allowed only two goals in six playoff games, but Calhoun could be the toughest test yet for the defense. Something has to give.
Coach speak: “We’ve gotten to where we are because we play the way that we play. The moment that we start to deviate from that is when we have problems. Goals are byproducts of everything else that we do. If we do the things that we do well, we’ll be playing on Sunday.” — New Rochelle coach Jarohan Garcia
Up next: The winner will play either Bethlehem Central (Section 2) or Fairport (Section 5) for the state championship at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Middletown High.
Class A state semifinal
Somers (18-2-2) vs. Section 11’s Amityville (14-2-3)
When: Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Faller Field Turf at Middletown HS
Key players: Som — Luke Bugoni, Sr., D; Evan Keiltyka, Sr., MF/D; Kenny Kurtz, Sr., GK; Jack Maher, Sr., MF; Jon Riina, So., F. Av — Rolman Guardado, So., MF; Tim Hermann, Sr., GK; Oscar Hernandez, Jr., MF; Marlon Martinez, Jr., F; Richard Ordonez, Jr., F.
Outlook: If Amityville sounds familiar to you, it’s because it should. It was the Warriors who ended Pearl River’s run last season with a 2-0 win in the state championship game. Now, the defending state champs are standing between the Tuskers and a shot at a state title of their own. Somers enters this game feeling like it has a legitimate chance because it’s been playing its best soccer in recent weeks. The Tuskers breezed through region play, winning both the semis and final by fairly comfortable margins. They’ve always felt confident about their defense and goalie, which have pitched shutouts in four of six playoff games thus far, and the offense really seems to have come around lately. Maher is the leader and has come up with some clutch goals, but there is a wealth of young talent around him that doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment. Amityville had a more difficult path in regional play, as the Warriors squeaked by previously unbeaten Glen Cove on penalty kicks in their previous game. They clearly have a knack for stepping up when it matters most. In terms of their biggest scoring threats, Martinez and Ordonez usually rotate at forward and should be a handful for Somers’ D. The Tuskers also like to move their pieces around, so don’t be surprised to see a few guys try their luck up top. I know that having Kurtz gives Somers coach Brian Lanzetta a lot of confidence, as the University of Mary Washington-bound senior has emerged as one of the best keepers in the state. He’ll face perhaps his biggest challenge on Saturday, and it should make for one heck of a game.
Coach speak: “I will say this: I have a very good group of close buddies that I grew up with who played college soccer with their head coach. I know they’re going to be well-coached. They have the experience and history, so they’re going to be prepared. One of the things that I think might help us is being overlooked and being an underdog. It’s one game and anything can happen. That’s how we’ve felt all season.” — Somers coach Brian Lanzetta
Up next: The winner will play either New Hartford (Section 3) or Grand Island (Section 6) for the state championship at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday at Middletown High.
Class B state semifinal
Hastings (19-1-1) vs. Section 2’s Ichabod Crane (18-2-1)
When: Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
Where: Faller Field Grass at Middletown HS
Key players: Hs — Alex Bourgeois, Jr., D; Nate Constantine, Sr., D; Oscar Pereira, Sr., D; Andrea Russo, Sr., MF; Jackson Silverstein, Sr., F. IC — George Cox, Sr., MF; Giovanni Gomez, So., F; Parker Groat, Jr., F; Nick Johnston, Jr., F; Peter Volkman, Sr., GK.
Outlook: I’ve been asked several times in the last couple of weeks about which local team has the best chance to win it all, and if I had to pick, I would probably lean toward the Yellow Jackets. They just moved to No. 1 in the state rankings and they’ve been here before. In fact, when Hastings got knocked out by East Aurora in last year’s state semis, it was clear to everyone who was watching that the Jackets got the better of possession and had more scoring opportunities. That goes to show that they weren’t far off last season, and this year’s team has been enhanced by the addition of a few very talented players who returned from the U.S. Academy system. In terms of pure skill, I would argue that Hastings is better-equipped to win it all this time around, but surely no one will hand the title over. Ichabod Crane comes in playing very well, having handled Section 10 champ Ogdensburg Free Academy with a 3-0 win in the regional final. Cox is their senior leader, but the Riders also have a lot of young talent that has been contributing during their run. Gomez, in particular, has been setting up his teammates with some key assists. Silverstein has been the hero for the Jackets, scoring some big goals despite sustaining a deep cut in his eyebrow in the regional semis. But the depth for Hastings is notable, and there are many others who have proven that they can get the job done. The Jackets played perhaps their best game of the season in their 4-0 regional final win over Section 8 champ Carle Place, and they’re hoping that momentum will carry into this weekend.
Coach speak: “We’ve played teams from northwestern New York, and there are some big boys out there. They look solid, they look very tough, so for us, it’s play your short game and play quick. We want to work it out of our backfield and try to frustrate teams.” — Hastings coach Fred Sandhop
Up next: The winner will play either Westhill (Section 3) or Livonia (Section 5) for the state championship at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Middletown High.
Class C state semifinal
North Salem (14-5) vs. Section 10’s Potsdam (10-8)
When: Saturday at 9:15 a.m.
Where: Faller Field Grass at Middletown HS
Key players: NS — Michael Bossi, So., MF; Michael Dutt, Sr., MF; Jake Leicht, Sr., D; John Martabano, Sr., MF; Mike Selzer, Sr., F. Pd — Carter Brown, Jr., GK; Dan Caamano, Jr., F; Jake Keleher, Sr., F; David Lucht, Jr., D; Nolan Towne, So., MF.
Outlook: Some might say that the Tigers are on an unexpected journey to Middletown, but it’s probably even more shocking for Potsdam. The Sandstoners pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year in the regional final, beating previously unbeaten Maple Hill — a team that some saw as the favorite to win the whole thing — with a 2-1 overtime win. Had they lost that game, they would have finished at .500. Now, they have a chance to win a state title, which should remind us that anything can happen at this time of year. With all of that being said, I should note that this will be Potsdam’s second appearance on this stage in the last four years, and it did play a schedule of mostly Class A and B schools. By no means will this be an easy opponent for North Salem. The Sandstoners’ biggest weapons have been Keleher (16 goals) and Caamano (14 goals), who are responsible for 30 of the team’s 33 goals this season. It was Keleher who scored the winner late in the game against Maple Hill. The Tigers’ defense has been strong throughout the playoffs, and you can expect their attention to be focused on those two for most of the game. North Salem tends to spread it out more, but Dutt and Selzer have been the go-to guys of late. They’re probably being viewed as a slight favorite after a 2-1 overtime win over Section 9 champ S.S. Seward in the regional final, but Potsdam has proven it can hang with just about any school in Class C.
Coach speak: “I don’t think you get this far without having some kind of asset. There’s a lot of ways to be strong in soccer — sometimes you’re fast, sometimes you’re skilled, sometimes you’re just really physical and strong. I’m not sure what they’re bringing to the game, but we’ll find out.” — North Salem coach Ron Hendrie
Up next: The winner will play either Lansing (Section 4) or World of Inquiry (Section 5) for the state championship at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at Middletown High.