There was no rest for the weary. That goes for Southold’s overworked defense in particular as well as the First Settlers in general over the final stretch of the regular season.
Southold’s boys soccer team is in the midst of a busy period in which it will have played its final six regular-season games over a 10-day period. The first of those games was a 2-0 loss to visiting Babylon Monday morning. On Tuesday, Southold will play Port Jefferson. That will be followed by games against Babylon Thursday, Center Moriches Saturday, Greenport Oct. 17 and Pierson/Bridgehampton Oct. 19.
That’s a lot of soccer compressed into a short span, the result of Jewish holidays and busing issues throughout Suffolk County.
“It’s going to be a rough week,” Southold center back Skyler Valderrama said. “I mean, we just got to keep working hard, like do what we’ve been doing together as a team.”
The tight schedule concerns Southold coach Andrew Sadowski. “It’s just unfair to the kids, no matter what school, to play that much,” he said, adding, “So everything is all jammed up, but when you don’t have a large number of kids on your roster, you know, you play with lumps and bumps and you just try and get through it.”
For the record, first-place Babylon (10-1, 10-1 League V), the defending Long Island Class C champion, is still good. “They’re always good,” said Sadowski.
This despite Babylon losing 14 players from the 2021 team, which did not allow a goal in regulation or overtime in four playoff games last fall.
Babylon coach Dennis McGovern said he brought a lot of eighth-graders onto the 2021 team who experienced firsthand the Panthers winning county and Long Island championships. That winning culture rubbed off. Now those players are sophomores with three seasons of varsity experience.
“They worked really hard during the summer, and then our first couple of games, you could just see that they were going to be pretty good,” said McGovern.
One of those sophomores, Owen Morris, scored the second goal Monday. After stripping the ball off a defender’s foot, Morris found a path to the goal and, with goalkeeper Travis Sepenoski at his mercy, deposited the ball in the net 9 minutes, 55 seconds into the match.
Later, a mishandled high free kick taken by Nico Giammarino led to a scramble in Southold’s goalmouth. Jameson Howard capitalized, slamming the ball in off the underside of the crossbar at 6:24.
Two Southold mistakes, two goals.
“Two mistake goals again,” Sadowski said. “And if we could just figure out how to tighten that up, then we’re even, 1-nil, nil-nil, but it’s a lot of growing pains because they are so young.”
Like Babylon, Southold (4-6, 4-6) also lost 14 players from its team last year. The First Settlers returned two starters, midfielder Fernando Cardenas and midfielder Jack Sepenoski, the goalkeeper’s older brother. Wyatt Carter, Wildri Jonnatan Diaz, Brendan Kilcommons and Cardenas are the team’s only seniors.
Babylon goalkeeper Caden Cerrone, filling in for the injured Eric Hoffman (ribs), did not need to make a save in his varsity debut.
Referring to Babylon, Sadowski said: “It’s the quality of kids that are coming through and how many of them continue to play travel [soccer]. Clearly, every single one of those kids play travel. They have a greater opportunity to play travel. Our kids have to drive an hour if they want to play travel.”
“We’re still learning and growing,” he continued. “It’s, you know, two steps forward, one step back. A lot of it is they just need more game experience together.”
Babylon dominated possession, outshot Southold, 34-2, and applied heavy pressure to the First Settlers’ defense. All of the defenders on Southold’s roster — Marvin Alvarado, Collin Cornell, Brian Schill, Jordan Guaman, Gabriel Mendez, Max McCarthy and Carter — played, said Sadowski.
“I expected [Babylon] to be good and they played well,” said Travis Sepenoski, who was kept busy making 14 saves, nine in the first half. “They just possessed the ball and they didn’t try to do anything crazy, just keep the ball, do their job. And we just couldn’t counter that.”
Valderrama said: “I definitely think we are not playing to our potential. There’s a lot of room for improvement. We have a lot of very skilled players.”
The First Settlers need to be fast learners, with games flying at them fast and furious.
“Win the games, work hard,” Travis Sepenoski said. “We gotta make something out of it.”