For many high school soccer players, the first day of preseason is a highly anticipated event.
For Southold High School senior Michael Christman, Monday’s first training session was extra special. He trained with the boys team for the first time since his sophomore season after suffering an ACL injury while playing basketball.
“Being back finally after missing all of last season, it feels great,” said Christman, who can play central defender or center midfielder.
“That’s probably my main driving force, honestly. I was out for like nine months, just rehabbing it … but didn’t make it back. That’s my main goal, to prove to myself and prove to my team that I can help out.”
Coach Andrew Sadowski certainly hopes so.
“I’m really looking forward to him coming back,” he said. “Could very well made a big difference in our playoff run if he was on the field. … Now it’s his turn and we’ll see.”
Added senior goalkeeper Dylan Clausen, “He will be a big help in the defensive line.”
As the season approaches, every player has his own motivation. For Clausen, it is winning the Class C Southeast Region and reaching the New York state final. Southold has gotten close in recent years.
Last fall the First Settlers (14-3-1) captured the League VIII title and the Suffolk County Class C championship.
“I would love to get back to where we were before,” Clausen said. “That’s been the goal the last two years. I want to get back and win the Southeast Regional and get up to the state finals. It’s definitely motivation to me.”
Southold was eliminated in the regional semifinals by Solomon Schechter School (Westchester County) last year, 1-0.
Monday’s afternoon session on a perfect summer day featured many drills with a soccer ball rather than just running.
“It’s getting us in shape at the same time, which is good so we’re getting touches on the ball as well as our fitness,” Christman said. “We will be running a lot more after this. Usually the first day we a do little bit less running. It usually picks up towards the middle of the week.”
Clausen, who was among 38 players who attended the morning and afternoon training sessions, understood what Monday meant to him.
“It’s a little more emotional because it’s the last first day of preseason,” Clausen said. “So you’ve got to work … because this is the last time you’re going to go through preseason in soccer, possibly ever in an organized team. You’ve got to go full for the nine, 10 weeks we’re going to do this.”
Perhaps Sadowski, who ran the show at his 23rd first day of preseason at Southold, put opening day into proper perspective.
“Anticipation is always fun, a good piece of the fun,” he said. “Coaching a small school is a really strange puzzle. Where are you going to get your athletes if they’re not soccer players? How are they going to fit into the framework of the team, the formation of the team, the formation that we will eventually develop to play? It’s always a lot of fun. I kind of like it.”
Like most of his coaching colleagues, Sadowski won’t have much time to find the right pieces for his puzzle. The First Settlers will open up the season at home in a non-league game against Riverhead, a Class AA team and a League II team, on Sept. 2.
Photo caption: Michael Christman missed the entire 2015 season wth an ACL injury, but is back and motivated to win some titles with Southold. (Credit: Garret Meade)