By MIKE SMITH
On Sept. 27, the New Rochelle Huguenots took on Section I power John Jay at McKenna Field, losing 5-0 to a tough Indians squad. Despite the loss, first year New Rochelle coach Francesco Notaristefano has seen plenty of signs that his young team is starting to come together as he looks to rebuild the Huguenot program.
New Rochelle looked solid early against John Jay, getting a few good looks in the first half, but the Indians would not be kept at bay for long and soon put the game out of reach.
“You can only hold off a team like that for so long,” Notaristefano said. “We had trouble finishing, but the girls gave a great effort.”
That effort, Notaristefano pointed out, has been evident all season long. On Sept. 26, taking on another tough opponent in White Plains, the Huguenots battled the Tigers for 48 minutes, losing just 1-0 on a header by Jordan Sobo.
New Rochelle, at 1-4 on the season, returns just three starting players from the 2012 team and, under Notaristefano, is looking to find its identity. So far, though, the newly minted head coach has relished the opportunity to build from the ground up. He said the biggest problem facing the Huguenots, aside from their youth, is the relatively small number of players on the roster. Of 22 players, just seven are seniors.
“We’ve been hurting for numbers and, with injuries common at this age, we haven’t had the chance to give girls the rest they might get otherwise,” he said.
Notaristefano has been impressed by contributions made by girls from all classes, however. From ninth graders, like Sophie Wolf and Sydney Jasper, to juniors like Selin Selman and Heather Manley, and seniors like Reilly Gallin, the Huguenots have been getting strong play across the board. Most notably, Notaristefano has been pleased with the development of junior keeper Carina Oliveira, who is playing her first season in net.
“She wasn’t a goalie until a few months ago,” Notaristefano said. “But she’s worked so hard and improved so much in a short time.”
In taking over the program, Notaristefano said, he knew he didn’t want to simply focus on on-field results, but also wanted to use the team as an extension of the New Rochelle community. To that end, he has set up a number of encounters for the squad, from meeting Manhattanville College’s soccer coach‑who spoke to the team about the academic pressures facing those looking to play sports at the collegiate level‑to taking a trip to Iona to meet with the Gaels’ coach and several players from Iona’s Division I program.
“This is always something I’ve wanted to do, to run a program,” Notaristefano said. “And that also means stressing academics, getting the community involved.”
As far as the on-field results, the coach said, he’s sure that, given the squad’s work ethic, wins will start to come about before too long. For now, he said, the team is looking to put into play the words said to them by Gaels’ coach Linda Hathorn.
“She told the girls ‘I’m better than I was yesterday, but not as good as I’m going to be tomorrow,’” Notaristefano said. “This is going to be a challenge, but I know these girls aren’t scared.”