Author Archives: Mike Smith

About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.

Gametease

Rye tops Harrison

Rye quarterback Andrew Livingston carries the ball against the Huskies. Livingston threw for 161 yards and rushed for 79.

Rye quarterback Andrew Livingston carries the ball against the Huskies. Livingston threw for 161 yards and rushed for 79.

By MIKE SMITH
With an appearance in the Class A finals and a Section I passing record to his name, Rye senior Andrew Livingston had accomplished a lot in his three years under center for the Garnets. But coming into 2014, there was one thing that Livingston hadn’t managed to do; lead his team to a victory over the Harrison Huskies at home. 

On Sept. 13, however, Livingston and the Garnets were able to best the Huskies at Nugent Stadium, winning the 84th  installment of “The Game” 24-13.

Rye has now won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two schools, Harrison’s last win coming in 2012 against another Livingston-led team.

Rashan Gilmore fights for the extra yard against Rye.  Photos/Bobby Begun

Rashan Gilmore fights for the extra yard against Rye.
Photos/Bobby Begun

“This was definitely something we wanted to do for our home fans,” said Livingston after Saturday’s win.” Especially since they beat us here my sophomore year.”

Livingston threw for 161 yards and ran for 79 yards and a score against the Huskies, proving that the senior signal caller can get it done with his legs as well as his arm.

“I knew coming into the preseason that I might be running the ball a little more,” said Livingston. “So I was ready to get a lot more carries this year.”

Senior running back Cartier Johnson added two scores of his own on the day, and Livingston was able to spread the ball around against the Huskies defense, who came into the game looking to bottle up the quarterback’s favorite target in Tim DeGraw.

“We knew this year that teams would be looking to lock [DeGraw] up,” said Livingston. “But our other guys really stepped up and we’ve got guys like [Brett] Egan and [Drew] Abate who I think people will have to watch out for.”

Cartier Johnson comes around the corner against Harrison on Sept. 13. Johnson ran for two touchdowns against the Huskies.

Cartier Johnson comes around the corner against Harrison on Sept. 13. Johnson ran for two touchdowns against the Huskies.

The Garnets jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Harrison, but Harrison battled back late in the second quarter, utilizing a punishing rushing attack to march down the field and find the end zone on a Rashan Gilmore touchdown. After Christian LoDolce recovered a Garnet fumble in the second half, Huskies’ QB Joe Nannarriello hit Zach Evans for Harrison’s second score to cut Rye’s lead to 17-13.

It would be as close as the Huskies would come, however, as another Rye score would seal the deal.

With the win, Rye improved to 2-0 on the season. The Huskies—who showed much improvement this week—are still searching for their first win. Harrison will travel to Somers to take on the defending Class A champs on Sept. 19, while Rye will look to stay unbeaten against Sleepy Hollow the following day.

Michael Dragone sheds a tackle on Sept. 13. Dragone and the Huskies were able to move the ball on the ground against Rye.

Michael Dragone sheds a tackle on Sept. 13. Dragone and the Huskies were able to move the ball on the ground against Rye.

“I think this win shows that we can grind it out, that we’re tough,” said Livingston after the game. “We’re going to look to build on this.

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 
NOT TO BAD

Column: Candid camera

Ray Rice, seen here holding his annual New Rochelle youth football camp in 2013, was recently suspended two games by the NFL for his role in a domestic abuse incident. Sports Editor Mike Smith—one of many—feels the brief suspension sends the wrong message. Photo/Mike Smith

On Sept. 8, Ray Rice was released from his contract with the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Hopefully, there is a silver lining to be found in this domestic abuse fiasco. Photo/Mike Smith

This should have been a great week for the NFL.

After an interminable offseason, football finally came back this weekend as the NFL season opened. With a full slate of NFL games on the docket and a fantasy football season up and running, I‑‑like many other Americans—was glued to my couch this Sunday from about noon until whenever the Sunday night game ended, basking in the glow of another year of football.

But on Monday, the most-viewed NFL “highlight” was surveillance footage from an elevator in an Atlantic City casino.

By now, even non-sports fans are well aware of the situation facing Baltimore Ravens running back and New Rochelle graduate Ray Rice. Earlier this year, Rice was accused of punching then fiancé Janay Palmer during a domestic dispute in a New Jersey casino, knocking her unconscious. The police got involved, Rice was ordered into a diversionary pretrial intervention program, the charges were ultimately dropped,
Rice and Palmer were married, and the NFL levied a two-game suspension on the star, drawing an outcry from an incensed public that maintained the league had not gone far enough.

The absence of a video prompted some to question exactly what happened. What really went down in that elevator? Had Rice been provoked to violence?

While those questions—especially the latter, in my mind—never excused Rice’s actions in any way, now that TMZ has released the video of what transpired that night, we’re left with some answers and more than a few questions.

The video evidence is damning, to say the least. Rice uncorks not one, but two vicious haymakers, sending Palmer fly-
ing into a metal handrail in the elevator.

Regardless of when the NFL knew exactly what this video held—many took last week’s mea culpa from Commissioner Roger Goodell on the mishandling of the situation as proof the NFL knew this video would eventually make the rounds—this is proving to be a stain on the league’s reputation that isn’t going away any time soon.

It’s one thing to look at the facts of this case and say the NFL passed the buck when it came to combating domestic violence. It’s another to be confronted with indisputable video evidence of a heinous, violent act—to have those images seared into the mind of a public that already sees the cavalier treatment of this offense as indicative of the general lack of compassion that domestic abuse victims face in society in general.

If there’s a silver lining in this fiasco, it’s perhaps that we realize domestic abuse is no longer something we, as a nation, can ignore. Maybe the NFL can take the first step and reassess its stance on the Ray Rice matter.

This is a league that’s revenue is driven by image.

I bet the NFL wishes that these particular images never saw the light of day.

Editor’s note: After this column
was filed, the NFL responded to
the release of the tapes, suspending Ray Rice indefinitely.

Follow Mike on Twitter, 

@LiveMike_Sports

 
Maddie Eck sends the ball down field on Sept. 5. Eck, a junior, is entering her third year starting in net for the Garnets.

Garnets nip Eagles

Maddie Eck sends the ball down field on Sept. 5. Eck, a junior, is entering her third year starting in net for the Garnets.

Maddie Eck sends the ball down field on Sept. 5. Eck, a junior, is entering her third year starting in net for the Garnets.

By MIKE SMITH
The Rye Garnets started the season off on a high note, squeaking past Eastchester to secure a 2-1 win in the 2014 opener.

With just a minute remaining, Maggie McDermott scored the game-winner for Rye after collecting the ball in the box and finding the net to break the tie.

Caroline Hyland gave the Garnets early life when she scored the first goal of the game just 16 minutes in, but Eastchester’s Anna Hughes knotted the game at 1 halfway through the second half.

“We were playing better early on, when we were keeping the ball on the ground,” Rye head coach Rich Savage said. “But we were able to stay in the game, and that’s just our experience and our good chemistry.”

The win was especially sweet for the Garnets, seeing as was the Eagles who ended their season last year in the Class A semifinal. With a host of returning players, including 13 seniors, the Garnets certainly came into this season with that loss weighing on their minds.

“The girls were definitely excited,” Savage said. “That was a nice win to start the season.”

Expectations are high for Rye this year, as the Garnets hope this opening win against a league foe is a sign of things to come. Offensively, the Garnets will rely heavily on Hanna Krapes, while Hyland and Christina Benincasa control the midfield. The defense will be anchored by Charlotte Tucci, while junior Maddie Eck, who is entering her third varsity season, will once again be in net.

According to the head coach, Eck’s presence in net is something of a security blanket for the Garnets as the junior has established herself as one of the best keepers in the section over the past few years.

Molly Nash controls the ball on Sept. 5 against the Eagles. Rye beat Eastchester 2-1 with a last minute goal.

Molly Nash controls the ball on Sept. 5 against the Eagles. Rye beat Eastchester 2-1 with a last minute goal.

“I think it makes our defense more comfortable having
Maddie back there,” Savage said. “We know that she has the ability to make some spectacular saves.”

With a tough league schedule that includes another go-around with the Eagles, as well as matchups with Pelham and Port Chester, the Garnets will be tested this season, Savage said. As long as the team plays up to its ability, he said, a deep playoff push could be in the cards for Rye.

“I like the way we’ve played so far,” he said. “We just need to make sure that we’re able to hold our defensive shape, that’s really important for us.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

Kerry Lavelle looks for an open teammate against the Eagles. Photos/Mike Smith

Kerry Lavelle looks for an open teammate against the Eagles. Photos/Mike Smith

 

 
Allison Cohen, right, controls the ball on Sept. 6 against Valhalla. The Panthers beat the Vikings 3-2.

Panthers top Vikings

Allison Cohen, right, controls the ball on Sept. 6 against Valhalla. The Panthers beat the Vikings 3-2.

Allison Cohen, right, controls the ball on Sept. 6 against Valhalla. The Panthers beat the Vikings 3-2.

By MIKE SMITH
The Rye Neck Panthers notched their first win of the season on Sept. 5, beating Valhalla 3-2 to improve to 1-1 on the year.

Rye Neck saw a 2-0 lead evaporate thanks to a furious Valhalla comeback in the second, but senior Nicole Miller scored twice in the win, supplying the game-winner with just seven minutes to play.

Teammate Rosella Salanitro notched the other goal for the Panthers.

Miller’s fellow captain, Briana Cefaloni, picked up two assists on the day, while goalie Julia Gutterman made six saves to help preserve the Panthers’ win.

According to head coach Beth Gulotta, Miller and Cefaloni need to play a big role for the Panthers this year given the relative youth of the team. After losing five seniors to graduation last spring, Rye Neck is relying on the duo to contribute not only as players, but as leaders too.

“They’ve got to pick up and do the job of our five seniors last year,” Gulotta said of her captains. “But, so far, they’re doing a great job, they know the game so well and they’re really helping out.”

April Zhang, right, makes a move on a Valhalla defender on Sept. 6. Photos/Bobby Begun

April Zhang, right, makes a move on a Valhalla defender on Sept. 6. Photos/Bobby Begun

Salanitro, who had the Panthers’ other goal against Valhalla, is also a key contributor this year, along with fellow junior Alison LeMoigne, who plays defense.

“These two juniors have shown so much improvement from last year,” said Gulotta. “We needed them to step up and they’ve really done it on the field, playing-wise.”

After dropping their season opener to perennial power Bronxville, the Panthers’ latest win has them on the right track as they get ready for their next matchup with Irvington on Sept. 11, after press time.

Moving forward, Gulotta said, the Panthers need to continue to grow as a team‑‑especially as some of the younger girls adjust to their increased roles on the varsity level. In order for the team to be successful, she said, the squad needs to be able to tighten up its defense.

Nicole Catanzariti, right, pushs the ball upfield on Sept. 6.

Nicole Catanzariti, right, pushs the ball upfield on Sept. 6.

“We need to work on communication, we’re a little bit disorganized back there,” she said. “We’re still learning how to work together.”

With unfamiliar opponents like Irvington and Hastings in its league, Rye Neck will have a difficult schedule that should pay off come the postseason.

“It’s a new league this year with new teams, so I think it’s going to be a pretty level playing field,” Gulotta said. “But I’ve got full confidence in the girls and their ability.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

Nicole Miller, left, takes the game-winning shot against Valhalla. Miller had two goals in the win.

Nicole Miller, left, takes the game-winning shot against Valhalla. Miller had two goals in the win.

 

 
Anthony Castracucco breaks a tackle against Valhalla on Sept. 6. Castracucco ran for one score and caught a touchdown pass in Tuckahoe’s 34-0 win. Photos/Mike Smith

Tigers win opener

Enoch Penney-Lareya fights for an extra yard against Valhalla. Penney-Lareya found the end zone twice and rushed for 108 yards.

Enoch Penney-Lareya fights for an extra yard against Valhalla. Penney-Lareya found the end zone twice and rushed for 108 yards.

By MIKE SMITH
On Sept. 6, Tuckahoe’s football team took the field looking to put an entire preseason’s worth of distractions in the rear-view mirror in the opening week of the football season. 48 minutes later, the Tigers had their first win of 2014 in the books, routing an over-matched Valhalla squad 34-0.

The Tigers’ deep backfield proved too much for the Vikings to handle on Saturday as Tuckahoe’s host of running backs torched Valhalla from the start. Anthony Castracucco led the way with 162 yards and a rushing touchdown while bruising fullback Enoch Penney-Lareya rumbled for 108 yards and two scores on the day as well.

Castracucco also hauled in a touchdown pass from Chris Corrado as Tuckahoe’s ability to spread out the touches worked to perfection in the opening week.

“We have some athletes and you just want to get the ball in their hands,” head coach John D’Arco said after the game. “Those are the guys who are going to make things happen, and that’s the way it worked out for us.”

Chris Corrado hauls in an interception against the Vikings on Sept. 6. Corrado had two picks in the Tigers’ opener.

Chris Corrado hauls in an interception against the Vikings on Sept. 6. Corrado had two picks in the Tigers’ opener.

Tuckahoe’s defense held up their end of the bargain as well, blanking the Vikings and capitalizing on turnovers, including two picks by Corrado on the afternoon. The Tigers headed into the half up by 24 points and never looked back.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the way the defense played,” D’Arco said. “We just stayed in a 40 base, made a few adjustments in the secondary when they went into motion and just played good, solid fundamental defense.”

According to D’Arco, Tuckahoe’s readiness was the least of the team’s concerns heading into Saturday as the weather played havoc with a slate of Section I games. A few games were pushed back to Sunday because of the oppressive heat, while others were delayed because of the afternoon rain, but the Tigers were able to get the game in, giving the squad a full week to get ready for next week’s matchup with Blind Brook.

“There was a lot of discussion prior to the game on Friday with Valhalla,” D’Arco said. “I wanted to push the game earlier, but Valhalla was adamant about playing later, so we went with a 4 p.m. start and rolled the dice.”

Although Tuckahoe’s football program has made headlines for off-the-field news the last few weeks, D’Arco maintained his team was not phased by the public struggles with the school board and that, if anything, the preseason trials of the program have only served to unite the team.

After the game, Tuckahoe’s players gave the game ball to John D’Arco, Jr., who was not reappointed to his position as an assistant coach with the program and now coaches at Stepinac.

Anthony Castracucco breaks a tackle against Valhalla on Sept. 6. Castracucco ran for one score and caught a touchdown pass in Tuckahoe’s 34-0 win. Photos/Mike Smith

Anthony Castracucco breaks a tackle against Valhalla on Sept. 6. Castracucco ran for one score and caught a touchdown pass in Tuckahoe’s 34-0 win. Photos/Mike Smith

“I think this has brought us together, the kids are playing with a chip on their shoulder,” D’Arco, Sr. said.

The Tigers will travel to Blind Brook next week to take on the Trojans, who are coming off a 38-14 loss to Bronxville.

“With a small Class C or D school, the biggest question is how we are going to play from week-to-week,” coach D’Arco said. “I was happy with the way we played on Saturday, but it all comes down to our depth and how we are going to bounce back next week.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

 
NOT TO BAD

Column: Ready for kickoff

Bronxville’s Charlie Tarry lays out to make a catch during an Aug. 30 scrimmage. Sports Editor Mike Smith is looking forward to Section I football action this year. Photo/Mike Smith

Bronxville’s Charlie Tarry lays out to make a catch during an Aug. 30 scrimmage. Sports Editor Mike Smith is looking forward to Section I football action this year. Photo/Mike Smith

With Labor Day behind us and a new school year in full swing, it’s officially my favorite time of year, football season.

Now, I’ve written about my love for the NFL—and fantasy football—in the past, but as much as I love the pro game, fall just isn’t fall without high school football, in my opinion.

Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy covering every sport on the high school docket. Soccer, lacrosse, basketball, track; I fully acknowledge that each endeavor of our student athletes is a testament to their skill and determination. Heck, some of the best contests I’ve covered in my tenure as the Review’s sports editor have been non-football competition.

In terms of sheer drama, I don’t think anything will top the 2009 section final between Eastchester and Rye’s girls soccer teams—a shootout win for the Eagles—or the 2012 basketball championships between New Rochelle and Mt. Vernon.

But there’s still something unique about football games that gets my heart racing every fall.

Maybe it’s the fact that each game has tremendous implications. A few losses on the lacrosse schedule doesn’t mean your team won’t make the playoffs, whereas two bad weeks on the gridiron can possibly doom a team to find itself on the outside looking in come November.

Maybe it’s the pageantry; the way towns routinely turn out on Saturday afternoons—or, more recently, Friday nights—to cheer on a team no matter what the team did the previous week. Between the band, the cheerleaders and the throngs of fans, each game feels like an event.

But maybe it’s because I remember what it was like to suit up for these games. I remember bursting through the banner and sprinting onto the field, an entire week’s worth of preparation going into four quarters of work. I can put myself in the shoes of these players and, having gone through the ringer myself, I can identify with them in both their successes and failures.

I’m already scanning the football schedules for the must-see games. Of course, next week’s Rye-Harrison game will be on the schedule, but there many games on the horizon I’m anticipating.

On Sept. 27, Tuckahoe and Bronxville will square off in their annual feud. Mamaroneck versus Eastchester‑‑on the eve of the Huskies/Garnets battle—features two of the best wideouts in the section. And, once the November chill creeps in and some of our teams find themselves up in Mahopac, that’s a weekend I certainly won’t miss.

Of course, it’s always some-thing of an undertaking, figuring out my schedule for the week, but you can be sure of one thing. No matter what games I’m covering this weekend, you can count on seeing me on the sidelines of a football game, happy as a clam.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter, 

@LiveMike_Sports

 
A Mamaroneck player makes a play on a pass on Saturday morning. Photos/Mike Smith

Tigers shine at scrimmage

A Mamaroneck player makes a play on a pass on Saturday morning. Photos/Mike Smith

A Mamaroneck player makes a play on a pass on Saturday morning. Photos/Mike Smith

By MIKE SMITH
The Mamaroneck Tigers got their first taste of competition on Aug. 30 when they took the field at Bronxville High School as part of a five-way scrimmage involving teams from both Connecticut and New York.

A Mamaroneck ball carrier tries to shed a tackle during an Aug. 30 scrimmage at Bronxville. The Tigers were one of five teams in attendance.

A Mamaroneck ball carrier tries to shed a tackle during an Aug. 30 scrimmage at Bronxville. The Tigers were one of five teams in attendance.

As the Tigers prepare for their week-one showdown with R.C. Ketcham, the scrimmage provided one last chance for starters and backups alike to impress the Mamaroneck coaching staff.

“After two weeks, our guys are a little salty at home, just hitting the same color, hitting each other in practice,” head coach Anthony Vitti said. “They just want to go out there and play this game the way it’s meant to be played, lining up against another team and giving it our all.”

The Tigers took on Fordham Prep, Hackley and host Bronxville in a series of half-field 11-on-11 clashes–a culmination of a long, grueling preseason that started on Aug. 18.

While Vitti was pleased with his team’s execution on Saturday, he did admit the Tigers are a work in progress. Still, the team showed signs of life against a solid Fordham Prep team, forcing some big turnovers, and moved the ball well against Hackley’s first teamers.

Marquez Jackson-Allen busts a long run against the Rams on Aug. 30. Jackson-Allen will be a focal point of the Tigers offense this year.

Marquez Jackson-Allen busts a long run against the Rams on Aug. 30. Jackson-Allen will be a focal point of the Tigers offense this year.

“We’re happy, but not satisfied,” the head coach said. “We’ve got to be more crisp and do a better job catching and protecting the ball, but I really like the improvement we’ve shown from day one of the preseason to today.”

Especially heartening, Vitti said, was his team’s level of effort during the scrimmages.

“This is a different team [than last year], and I think toughness is one of our strengths,” he said. “Mentally and physically, we are tough and that’s what’s going to carry us.”

The Tigers’ second-teamers shined as well, dominating a short session with Bronxville. According to Vitti, the contributions of backups will be vital if the Tigers are to succeed this year.

“This game is about your depth, everybody has that top-end kid or two or three,” he said. “But there’s a reason this is the ultimate team game. The thing that made us really happy was, if you saw our first team on the sidelines, they were going crazy when the other guys were in there. That shows team unity and just how tight this team is.”

A Tiger defender goes for a loose ball against Fordham Prep on Aug. 30. Head coach Anthony Vitti was pleased with his team’s performance on Saturday.

A Tiger defender goes for a loose ball against Fordham Prep on Aug. 30. Head coach Anthony Vitti was pleased with his team’s performance on Saturday.

The Tigers are hoping to build on a good preseason as they prepare for Ketcham on Sept. 7. Ketcham made the Class AA semis last year, but are heading into 2014 with a number of new faces in the mix.

“They’re something of a mystery; they’ve got a lot of turnover and a new coaching staff,” Vitti said. “Without any tape on them, we don’t exactly know what to prepare for, but we will be ready.”

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

 
Wideout Charlie Tarry shakes a defender with a stiff-arm on Aug. 30. Tarry is one of several key returnees for the Broncos this year.

Broncos host scrimmage

Ted Meyers drags down a St. Luke’s ball carrier in the backfield on Aug. 30. Bronxville’s defensive unit had a strong showing on Sunday.

Ted Meyers drags down a St. Luke’s ball carrier in the backfield on Aug. 30. Bronxville’s defensive unit had a strong showing on Sunday.

By MIKE SMITH
The Bronxville Broncos played host to a five-way scrimmage on Aug. 30, inviting a handful of local squads to get some last-minute work in as the regular season opens this weekend.

Mamaroneck, Fordham Prep, Hackley and St. Lukes from Connecticut were all on hand for a series of half-field, full-contact competition.

According to Bronxville head coach Jeff Napolitano, the scrimmage gave the Broncos  and their guests  a chance to see how the team looked in game scenarios against opposition other than the practice squad.

“When we come out here, we want to see speed, intensity to the ball and that guys are reacting to whatever’s on the opposite side of the ball,” Napolitano said. “We’re just polishing up what we’ve been doing in the last two weeks of camp, trying to get the team ready for opening day.”

Ted Meyers drags down a St. Luke’s ball carrier in the backfield on Aug. 30. Bronxville’s defensive unit had a strong showing on Sunday.

Ted Meyers drags down a St. Luke’s ball carrier in the backfield on Aug. 30. Bronxville’s defensive unit had a strong showing on Sunday.

The Broncos squared off against St. Luke’s, Hackley and Mamaroneck and fared well in the scrimmages, showing off a potent passing attack led by some good connections from Graham Klimley to Charlie Tarry.

Overall, Napolitano said he was less concerned with the outcomes of the scrimmages and more focused on just getting his team meaningful reps against non-Bronxville opponents.

“It is different because, for the first time, we’re really going up against an opponent,” he said. “We’re going full speed. It gets a little confusing, so we wanted to see how we can handle all these different looks.”

The Broncos open the season on Sept. 6 against Blind Brook, which finished the 2013 season with a 4-5 record. The Trojans graduated 11 players from last year’s teams and Napolitano is well aware his team could be facing a much improved ball club on opening day.

“It’s the first week of the season, so you don’t have much to go on,” he said. “High school athletes can improve so much from one season to the next, so you never know, but we expect to have our hands full.”

A Bronco running back finds some open field against St. Luke’s at Saturday’s scrimmage.

A Bronco running back finds some open field against St. Luke’s at Saturday’s scrimmage.

No matter what Blind Brook brings to the table this week, Napolitano has been pleased with the progress his team has shown through the first two weeks of the preseason and said, after his team’s showing on Saturday, his squad looks to be ready for the upcoming season.

“I thought we looked good and we got what we expected out of our veteran guys,” he said. “We also had some of the first-year guys come up and play better than we thought they would, which is going to be really important.”

A Bronxville ball carrier busts through the middle against St. Luke’s. Head coach Jeff Napolitano said Bronxville’s offense will be well-balanced this year. Photos/Mike Smith

A Bronxville ball carrier busts through the middle against St. Luke’s. Head coach Jeff Napolitano said Bronxville’s offense will be well-balanced this year. Photos/Mike Smith

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

 
A Mamaroneck player makes a challege at a scrimage with the Huskies on Aug. 28.

Huskies looking to gel in 2014

Harrison coach Jon-Erik Zappala looks on from the sidelines during an Aug. 28 scrimmage against Mamaroneck.

Harrison coach Jon-Erik Zappala looks on from the sidelines during an Aug. 28 scrimmage against Mamaroneck.

By MIKE SMITH
In 2013, the Harrison girls soccer team took a while to gel, but came together toward the end of the season to finish with a 9-8-1 record and a second-round playoff appearance under its belt.

This year, with a roster full of returning players, the Huskies are poised to build upon last year’s late-season success as they hunt for another postseason berth.

According to head coach Jon-Erik Zappala, despite Harrison’s strong end to last season, the team is entering this year with a completely different mindset. Although the squad is returning 11 players, Zappala said, this year the team came into preseason with a clean slate, as did the staff.

“You have to come into the season without a bias and because of that, everyone’s getting a new tryout,” he said. “Some people improve, some people stay the same, so we basically had to see where everyone was and go from there.”

A Harrison player battles a Mamaroneck player for position at the Aug. 28 scrimage between the two teams. Photos/Bobby Begun

A Harrison player battles a Mamaroneck player for position at the Aug. 28 scrimage between the two teams. Photos/Bobby Begun

The head coach said nine girls from last year’s squad will likely slide into starting roles with captains Erica LaManna, center midfield; Gina DeRusso, defensive midfield and Kat Ensign, defense, poised to be the backbone of the team. Zappala said the trio would be instrumental in the transitions between defense, midfield and attack and
cooperation between the different phases of the game would lead to the team’s success.

In the team’s Aug. 28 scrimmage against Mamaroneck, the head coach said, the Huskies did a great job in the transition game, particularly in the second half.

A Huskie player drives a goal kick.

A Huskie player drives a goal kick.

The Huskies have had a successful preseason so far and have recently returned from a trip upstate during which they took on some top teams in Shaker Heights and Queensbury.

“Being vocal is important, but you also need the visual communication as well if you want to be a solid unit,” Zappala said. “[Against Mamaroneck], we did a tremendous job with that and [assistant coach] Lindsay Riley and I were very proud of the effort.”

The Huskies open the season on Sept. 3 against Albertus Magnus and play their first league game on Sept. 5 against Port Chester.

On Sept. 8, Harrison will tangle with its rivals from Rye. According to Zappala, the Huskies’ league games will prove a challenge this year, especially with powerhouse Eastchester being added to the mix.

“The league is strong and every game is going to come down to what team performs better on the field that day,” he said. “But the tough schedule is going to help by the time we get to the playoffs and we are looking forward to a successful year.”

A Mamaroneck player makes a challege at a scrimage with the Huskies on Aug. 28.

A Mamaroneck player makes a challege at a scrimage with the Huskies on Aug. 28.

CONTACT: sports@hometwn.com

 
Head coach Francesco Notaristefano talks to his players during a Sept. 2 practice. The second-year head coach is confident the Huguenots are on the right track.

Huguenots prepare for 2014

Head coach Francesco Notaristefano talks to his players during a Sept. 2 practice. The second-year head coach is confident the Huguenots are on the right track.

Head coach Francesco Notaristefano talks to his players during a Sept. 2 practice. The second-year head coach is confident the Huguenots are on the right track.

By MIKE SMITH
After a down year in 2013, the New Rochelle Huguenots are looking to bounce back this season with a host of players returning to the pitch. But even with his team gearing up for the regular season, second-year head coach Francesco Notaristefano is working hard on laying the foundation for continued success for the Huguenots.

“The thing we’re trying to get is that consistency,” Notaristefano said. “You look at the other top teams in our league and they’ve all had coaches who have been there for a few years. We think our girls believe that we are in this for the long haul.”

Last year, in Notaristefano’s first year at the helm of the program, the Huguenots took their lumps, going 3-12-1 on the season, but the team garnered praise from opposing coaches, who viewed the New Rochelle program as an up-and-comer.

A New Rochelle goalie makes a stop on Sept. 2.

A New Rochelle goalie makes a stop on Sept. 2.

“Even in games we lost last year, we’d have coaches come up and say how focused and disciplined we were,” Notaristefano said. “Even for a younger team.”

This year, the Huguenots expect to build on last year’s progress, but were dealt a blow in the offseason when returning star Selin Selman was injured, prematurely ending her season. Though Selman was the team’s leading scorer last year, Notaristefano expects a handful of girls to step up to help put points on the board.

A New Rochelle player works on a ball control drill on Sept. 2. The Huguenots opened up the season on Sept. 3 against Port Chester. Photos/Bobby Begun

A New Rochelle player works on a ball control drill on Sept. 2. The Huguenots opened up the season on Sept. 3 against Port Chester. Photos/Bobby Begun

“We realize that every time we put a ball in the net, it has touched a number of different feet before it gets to that point,” the head coach said. “So we’re not a team that relies on one player for our success; it’s a team effort.”

Selman has still been a valuable member of the team in the preseason as she and fellow captain Heather Manley have worked hard to bring this young Huguenot team together.

“They’re two of the best captains I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” Notaristefano said. “And Heather is such a vocal leader; she is a huge help to have on the field.”

Despite his team’s relative youth this year, Notaristefano believes his girls have the talent to compete, even in a tough league with the likes of Scarsdale, White Plains and Mamaroneck on the schedule.

“We’re going to try to possess the ball and control the tempo of the games ourselves,” he said. “You can talk about age, but once you’re on the field, that doesn’t matter.”

Huguenot players compete at practice at Albert Leonard Middle School. According to head coach Francesco Notaristefano, New Rochelle will emphasize controlling the tempo his year.

Huguenot players compete at practice at Albert Leonard Middle School. According to head coach Francesco Notaristefano, New Rochelle will emphasize controlling the tempo his year.

The Huguenots open the season on Sept. 3 against Port Chester, after press time.

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