Hampton Bays gave Center Moriches a run for its money last October.
The Baymen stood their ground for more than 90 minutes, but ultimately lost the Suffolk County Class B boys soccer championship 1-0 in sudden-death overtime. While many of the starters who suffered that loss have left, head coach Scott Garofola said his team is still looking to make an impact, especially the younger guys who saw the team make it to the championship game for the first time in 20 years.
“We were just so close that I think there’s kids that feel, ‘Wait, while the seniors don’t get a second opportunity, we do,’” Garofola said. “I think that’s definitely driving some of those younger guys coming up and stepping into starting roles. It also gives the guys an idea of what it takes to get there, and how difficult it is.”
He’ll be leaning on returners Milan Moraga and Matt Arroyo to take charge at both ends of the field.
Moraga, a starting senior captain, broke his wrist in the final regular season game last year, missing the playoffs. He’d also pulled his hamstring earlier in the season, which sidelined him for some time after a solid sophomore campaign.
“He’s a guy who is just an absolutely phenomenal athlete,” Garofola said. “We could probably put him anywhere on the field. He’s really developed his soccer skillset. I think he’s going to take off this year.”
Arroyo, a junior goalkeeper, will maintain his position between the pipes this season.
“He really took hold of the starting job last year,” Garofola said. “We usually like to use guys with more experience in the net, but he earned it last year. He’ll be anchoring our defense. He’s very vocal in the back, too, to ensure our defense is structured. That’s key.”
The coach will also look to Justin Jimenez, who he said is one of the most highly skilled players on the team, and Steve Bonilla, who he called a “lead by example guy,” saying “no one will ever outwork him,” to help the Baymen improve on their 6-8-1 record.
Bonilla will also be a captain, Garofola said, for his ability to lead but all the guys see this season as an opportunity.
“We need some people to step up. In a small school, that tends to be the process, almost yearly. This isn’t necessarily a new situation for us, and we have some young guys returning I think are going to take some big steps this year,” the coach said. “While some were behind some really talented guys and know the challenge of filling those roles, they look at each other knowing they have to come together, because there’s a standard that’s set now.”
While Hampton Bays won’t have to play Elwood-John Glenn (16-0), which Garofola called a “historically very good team,” the Baymen haven’t had to play their new League VII opponents Greenport or Pierson/Bridgehampton (3-13) in some time, and will still be facing tough competition in Center Moriches (12-4-2), Mattituck (10-6), and Southampton (5-10-1).
“It’s one of those leagues where at any given day we can go out and get the win,” the coach said. “But it’s also a league where if you don’t show up and your mind’s not in it, you can lose on any given day, too. You have to take advantage of opportunities and stay focused on your game.”
Familiar Face Leads Greenport
Greenport graduated nine seniors from last year’s 11-7 squad that nabbed its first Suffolk County Class C title in 10 years, but also lost head coach Sean Charters, who went back to school to finish his education degree. Greg Dlhopolsky, a 15-year Greenport High School math teacher, will be taking the reins after heading the junior high team the past 14.
“I’ve been happy coaching at the junior high level over the years, because I was starting a family and the time commitment was not as great as with coaching varsity, but I had always hoped that I would coach varsity soccer at Greenport at some point,” he said. “I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to the season beginning.”
Dlhopolsky was a four-year soccer player at Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station, and played intramurally at SUNY Geneseo. He also competed on travel and club teams through middle and high school, and is excited to see some familiar faces.
“In the last couple of years, our junior high and junior varsity soccer teams have seen a good deal of success. I’m looking forward to seeing how that talent starts panning out at the varsity level,” the coach said. “Last year’s team was extremely skilled, and Sean Charters did a great job getting them to play together in a scheme that worked for the types of players he had. It will be extremely difficult this season to try to replace all of those seniors who have graduated, but that’s not to say we won’t be competitive.”
He’ll be looking to Kevin Azama, Justin Lopez, Cristian Quezada, Josh Santacroce, and Drew Wolf to lead the way.
“They are all returning players who saw abundant minutes last year,” he said. “I’ll be leaning on their experience to help lead this year’s team on the field.”
While senior goalkeeper Miguel Torres will be hard to replace, according to Dlhopolsky, there are a few players moving up through the ranks who have some experience.
“There tends to be a lot of turnover year-to-year in Greenport sports, so next week will be telling in terms of what we’ve got,” Dlhopolsky said. “In practice, we will be focusing on fitness, skills, and generating a team mentality. I do know that a lot of our potential players have been playing over the summer, and we’re eager to get the season underway.”