After losing its head coach and most of the squad from its state championship boys soccer team of a year before, Mattituck High School experienced a transitional season in 2015.
That’s if you consider a 12-5 record and reaching the Suffolk County Class B semifinals a transition.
But this is Mattituck, where anything less than a county championship is a disappointment.
Coach Will Hayes called it “a big learning curve.” He said, “The players are much more on the same page in what we’re thinking and how we can accomplish our goals.”
Many veterans return.
Sophomore James Jacobs, the lone goalkeeper last year, has become a dominant one.
The back line, which included four newcomers last season, has a year’s experience under its belt. Bryce Grathwohl, Jack Kitz and Justin Lake can man the middle. Dylan Wilsberg moved to the right side. Chris Waggoner, an All-League VII forward, was switched to left back.
Set-piece specialist Adriel Garcia, Carlos Campos and Tommy Sullivan anchor the midfield. Junior Axel Rodriguez-Canal (15 goals) and Pavel Klibisz will start at forward.
Because Bishop McGann-Mercy and Ross are not fielding teams, only three Class B schools remain — Mattituck, Center Moriches and Babylon.
“I would love to win the league, but getting into the county final is the real goal,” Hayes said. “Putting the kids into the county final and putting them into a situation where they can be really successful is the ultimate goal. Whatever happens after that is up to the gods.”
A perennial presence in the state tournament, League VIII and Suffolk Class C defending champion Southold (13-2-1) is rebuilding after losing seven starters to graduation. The First Settlers hope to replace two lethal goal scorers, including Peter Fouchet (18 goals).
Coach Andrew Sadowski, who is entering his 23rd season as the dean of Suffolk boys soccer coaches, said he was “looking for players to fill the shoes and I mean players. Peter Fouchet was a big piece to our team; so we’re looking for one, two, 22 players to fill his shoes.”
Sadowski has a history of motivating players to perform at higher levels.
Four senior starters return. Dylan Clausen is a rock in goal. Center back Michael Christman is back after missing his junior year with an ACL injury. Midfielder Ryan Herrmann, who broke his orbital bone in last year’s league finale, could help fill the net. Joe Berry can play midfield or center back.
Sadowski said Herrmann and Berry “have been the most consistent players who have returned.”
Midfielder Edwin Martinez, defender/midfielder Mario Contreras and defender Luis Herrera are other returning seniors.
“We’re hoping for things to turn around as for more consistency in team play,” Sadowski said. “We still have some work to do.”
To say that Greenport (2-12) is a young team is an understatement. Nine of the Porters’ top players are freshmen or sophomores.
“I have a good group of players who have played travel soccer the past two years, who will make up the core of the team,” coach Chris Golden said.
Two sophomores are among the keys — midfielder Jacob Kahn, whose twin brother Xavier, is expected to get considerable playing time at midfield, and Christian Lopez, whom Golden called “a multi-talented kid” and “very good all-around player.”
For experience, the Porters can count on defender Eduardo Sanchez, midfielder Remi Droskoski and midfielder Ben Bracken. They are all seniors.
Also in the mix are midfielders Miguel Torres, Mateo Roldan and Drew Wolf, defenders Jason Cruz and Chris Kuczynski and forward William Chapeton.
“That’s a pretty big nucleus for this season and the next couple of years,” Golden said, adding Greenport’s strength was versatility and technical ability. “They’re very technical and skilled players who are learning the nuances and the speed of the game.”
Class B, C and D schools comprise League VIII. Despite his side’s youth, Golden expects it to do well against fellow Class C schools.
He said, “We will do more than hold our own.”
Photo caption: Mattituck junior Axel Rodriguez-Canal scored 15 goals last season. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)