ORANGEBURG — Each year under boys soccer coach Jon Jacobs seems to be better than the last for Tappan Zee.
The Dutchmen have made steady improvements in each of his first three seasons at the helm, winning at least 10 games each year. Last season was the best yet, capped by the program’s first-ever trip to the Section 1 finals.
There’s really only one more step for TZ to take — winning a section title — but that end goal should prove to be more difficult than any of the previous accomplishments.
“(The section final) was the biggest game in our program’s history, especially against Pearl River — our rivals and a team that we play all of the time,” senior Jack Samett said. “It just leaves you hungry for this year.”
Although the Dutchmen lost to rival Pearl River in the section final, they picked up the biggest win in program history in the semifinals. Byram Hills was ranked No. 1 in New York State for a stretch last season, but Lukas Puris scored an overtime goal to knock off the Bobcats in a thrilling victory.
“We’ve always been seen as a very capable team,” Samett said. “But I think that raised our standard.”
Since Jacobs’ arrival in 2013, the Dutchmen have been known for their air-tight defense. They’ve earned the reputation as one of the most difficult teams to score on in Class A, and that trend should continue in 2016.
TZ graduated All-Section defender James Hennessy, but it returns three starters in Samett, Joe Stahl and Sam Gould. Stahl is a junior who formerly played with the U.S. Academy, and he’s already considered one of the best in Section 1.
“It was a great experience, coming from the Academy. The kids on team were great,” Stahl said. “We have very high expectations. … As coach always says, ‘The attack leads from the back.’ We always tell everybody where to go.”
The defense will need to be stout because many of the Dutchmen’s most reliable scorers have graduated, namely Puris, Eoghan McGee and Chris Mulqueen.
Daesob Lim and the Shalvey’s — Thomas, Kyle and Ciaran — will be looked at to carry the burden.
“We lost a unique group of guys to graduation, as most programs do,” Jacobs said. “But I think we have a very, very capable group of younger players who are going to moving up. There are expectations and big shoes to fill, and there are going to be a lot of opportunities out there. We have more than enough capable players to hopefully seize those moments.”
More so than winning a section title, Jacobs stressed that TZ will dedicate this season to athletic director Liam Frawley, who remains hospitalized after an aneurysm burst in his brain in January.
“For me personally — and it’s something that I hope the guys will embrace as we go along — is that this year is big one for us, playing with heavy hearts with our athletic director, Mr. Liam Frawley, on the mend and in hospital,” Jacobs said. “He’s meant a lot to this program and he’s always been our biggest supporter. He’s been a huge part of why the program has taken off the way that it has in recent years.”