Spackenkill High School boys soccer coach Manny Blanco wrapped up his team’s practice at Todd Middle School in the Town of Poughkeepsie on Monday by telling his players they did well.
He then made his way to the high school, where girls soccer coach Mike Corbett was working with his players on footwork and dribbling skills.
The mood, overall, was the same at both practices; happy to be back on the field and hopeful to expand on their shared success.
A year ago, both teams won Mid-Hudson Athletic League and Section 9 Class B titles. The girls, the five-time defending sectional champions, went undefeated until losing to Albertus Magnus in a regional semifinal. The boys fell to Hastings in their regional semifinal.
Both teams are now looking to go a bit further, but first are concentrating on a fruitful regular season.
“Last year was good for us. We won the league, the division, the section,” Blanco said. “We take one game at a time like we do every year. We hope to be competitive, and in the postseason, anything can happen.”
Although Blanco is hoping to duplicate the success of last year with returners such as Ryan Espinoza and Jake Kaufman, a big difference compared to last season will be the absence of senior Chris Stamper. Stamper will be attending Spackenkill as a student, but not playing for the soccer team, as he was selected to play for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
“It’s a huge loss. He scored 20-plus goals his first three years,” Blanco said. “It’s going to hurt big time. We’ll have no choice but to work around it.”
Yet cohesiveness, Espinoza said, is what is going to keep the Spartans ahead of the pack.
“We’re all just like family,” he said. “We’ve all been playing together since we could dribble a ball. We jell together a lot and that helps.”
Similarly, the girls must deal with the losses of graduates Morgan Dominick and Savannah Barefoot. But, they return captains Gabby Prichard, Julia Riehl, Eileen Fiore and Brooke Scianna.
“I think our biggest team strength is knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Fiore said. “We’ve had a lot of success. I hope for the same thing, if not better.”
The girls have leadership in place, as well as established team chemistry.
Corbett knows it can shine through.
“I have a solid team this year,” Corbett said. “What’s been fortunate is that the kids have been learning from the older players. They know what to expect.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports