The comfort factor is a two-way street.
Greg Dlhopolsky is no stranger to the Greenport boys soccer program. The Porters’ new coach is a familiar face. He knows the players and the players know him.
Dlhopolsky, 37, who succeeds Sean Charters, had coached the junior high school team for 14 years. He said he has coached pretty much every player who will be on the team and as a teacher in Greenport also taught most of them.
“I know them on the field and in the classroom and in the hallways, so I know the kids pretty well and have a pretty good rapport with them, so I think that helps,” he said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “Part of the reason I took the job was because I know all these guys and they’re good kids and they work hard, so I’m really excited to see what we can do.”
Despite the familiar surroundings, though, Dlhopolsky acknowledged it does have a “different feel” being in charge of the program. This is the first varsity soccer coaching job for the former Comsewogue player who also played intramural ball at SUNY/Geneseo.
“Soccer was always really something that I loved and for me it will be nice to coach games that are more about competition than about just teachable moments,” he said. “It will be nice to really coach games that matter.”
Dlhopolsky, whose coaching staff includes assistant coach Pedro Rodriguez and junior varsity coach Tom Taylor, has some work ahead of him. The Porters lost 10 players (nine starters) from last year’s team, which Charters had called one of the best in Greenport history. Not only did the Porters win their first county championship in 10 years, but they also played in their first regional final since 2005.
That’s where the pain came in.
Despite thoroughly outplaying and dominating S.S. Seward in the Southeast Region Class C final with a 27-6 shots advantage, the Porters suffered an especially cruel 1-0 defeat on Matt Stam’s sudden-victory overtime goal.
The pain was real. It still sticks with the Porters, who went 12-7.
“It sort of haunts me because I had a couple of chances that I missed,” junior midfielder/forward Kevin Azama said. “I kind of regret not making them.”
Dlhopolsky, who watched a live feed of the game at home on the Internet, felt their pain. “It was one of the most dominant performances you’ll see and have a team actually not win the game,” he said. “So, in that way, it was a very tough loss.”
Now it’s Dlhopolsky’s job to pick up the pieces, reassemble and see if the Porters can make another deep playoff run.
“He’s great,” said Drew Wolf, a senior who can play defense, forward or midfield. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s coached us all in junior high. He’s a very good communicator. He really gets you to know what he wants you to do and what it should look like, and he’ll show you.”
More praise followed. Sophomore forward/midfielder Justin Lopez said Dlhopolsky “knows what he’s talking about. He’s a great coach and a great person.”
As a coach, Dlhopolsky said he places great emphasis on team and effort. “Maximum effort at all times,” he said. “That’s how I played. That’s what I expect. I don’t want to see guys taking minutes off just because things aren’t going their way. Sometimes the ball rolls your way, sometimes it doesn’t, but you got to always put in the 100-percent effort.”
Photo caption: New Greenport coach Greg Dlhopolsky, left, and junior varsity coach Tom Taylor watch the team scrimmage during practice. (Credit: Bob Liepa)