On the first official day of soccer practice, players certainly can dream.
Some high school teams have modest goals in that they just want to improve their lot. Others want to transform themselves from a mediocre side into a competitive one. While yet others want to contend for a league or even county title.
The Southold High School boys team can dream, too, although the First Settlers have some loftier goals. They want to reach for the sky and are hopeful of completing the season in upstate Middletown on Nov. 16 on a joyous note.
That’s right. The defending Suffolk County Class C champions want to win the state championship. Of course, for most teams that’s easier said than done.
It’s been nearly three decades since Southold took a final victory lap in the final game of the season when the school earned the Class D state crown in 1985. These days, the First Settlers compete in Class C, where the competition is more difficult, but their dreams haven’t changed.
“Southold hasn’t been to the states for quite a long time and I would like to bring the team there,” senior midfielder/forward Shayne Johnson said on the first day of training Monday. “I know my teammates are like that, too, because we want to restore tradition to this school and what sports means to the school. We want to be able to represent our community well; not just the school, but the whole town.”
Johnson was not alone in his optimism.
“I feel we can do it,” senior goalkeeper John Charles Funke said. “Every senior wants that. I also want it for the rest of my team. All the underclassmen, I hope they want the states, that title, when they’re seniors, too.”
Added senior midfielder Sean Moran: “We can definitely win a lot of games this year. Last year we won counties. This year we can expect to do even more.”
You have to be hungry to want something special and the First Settlers certainly sound like they have a big appetite. Only time will tell whether their eyes are bigger than their soccer stomachs.
While coach Andrew Sadowski certainly wouldn’t mind adding another state title to the school’s collection — Southold has six — he had a much more pragmatic view on the first day of two-a-day training.
“My goal is always to go further than the year before because I think we have the kind of skill level, we have the ability,” he said. “We certainly have the tradition. The big question is: Does this team want to be recognized as the team that didn’t win a league title, that didn’t win a county championship? That’s always a motivation within itself. Our minds as coaches is to do better than the year before, whatever that may be. That may be in the number of wins, the number of titles. It could be something as important as our team chemistry is better this year.”
Sadowski has been encouraged by that.
“The biggest thing we’re seeing so far at this early stage is that there’s a chemistry developing,” he said. “I may not know who’s playing which position but I know the several different positions that some of them can play. It’s a matter of giving ourselves more time so we can figure out how they’re going to play well with their teammates in which positions.”
The First Settlers have 11 players back from last year’s county champion team and seven who had started at one time or another.
Under Sadowski, the First Settlers have acquitted themselves well. They have won nine league titles, five county championships and reached the state final in 2001.
Sadowski said the players “know from our non-league schedule they’re going to see some very quality teams and it’s for a reason — to make us better. But, on the other hand, the other teams we’re playing against, recognize the competition level that we have. In the [Town of Brookhaven] Summer League we are the smallest school that plays. We’re going to get beat up. We don’t have the skill level of players to choose from. But we have the interest and desire to be part of a program.”
And perhaps an opportunity to make another run at a state championship.