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Sun-7 Boys Soccer Preview: Hamburg, new coach turning it around early in 2013 season

KICK OFF THE SEASON — Dan Meissner is among a group of returning players for Hamburg, which is off to a 4 – 0 start to the season. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
When Tony Schiappa took over as head coach of the Hamburg boys soccer team in May, it did not take long for him to learn that the varsity’s record during the past two seasons was 8 – 25 – 1.

Schiappa said that he did not want this group held down by low expectations. Combining an influx of young talent with a group of returning players, Hamburg has already taken steps to erase past season’s hardships.

In starting the season 4 – 0, the Bulldogs are off to the best start for the program since 2006. They also have a shutout streak going for the past 315 minutes and have been scored upon only once and shot on just eight times, so far.

“It has been a great start to the year,” Schiappa said. “Expectations were not very high, but these boys continue to amaze me with their hard work, dedication and commitment to success. We have started off this season with wins over strong some strong schools. “

Junior Shane Greene leads the team with 5 goals, including 3 in a season-opening 3 – 1 win against Niagara Wheatfield, a team that beat Hamburg 4 – 0 on the same field at the Sweet Home Tournament, last year. A 2012 All-ECIC Third Team selection, Greene is also a Empire Buffalo 16-and-younger premier team captain.

“In my opinion, he is the best junior in WNY, if not the best; one of the top five for sure,” noted Schiappa, whose team has outscored opponents 10 – 1, including a 2 – 0 shutout of Iroquois. Schiappa is being assisted by Neil Byrne and Mike Chrites, while the junior varsity is headed by R.J. Grampp and modified by Andy Smith.

Senior leaders Zach Dake and Dan Meissner have each recorded a goal and two assists, to start the year, and Ryan Smith has added 2 goals. Junior midfielder Aric Huber has been a force in the midfield, according to his coach, and shut down two of the area’s top players in Noah Asklar of Wheatfield and Drew Braun of Iroquois, while classmate Brandon Mecklenberg has recorded three shutouts. Hamburg has allowed just eight shots in four games.

Schiappa called Meissner, a second team all-division forward, the fastest player he has ever coached and a top-notch finisher, especially during one-one situations. Dake, a captain and center attacking midfielder, has the ability to be an All-Western New York type player, according to his coach. “I believe in all of our players, but there isn’t one I trust more than Zach,” Schiappa noted.

Among the team’s five sophomores, Will Smith at starting sweeper and Pete Rindfuss at stopper have played roles in leading the defensive effort. Also sophomores, Pat McGowen sees time at outside midfield and Max Bailey and Ben Palutro have also contributed.

Junior Josh Franklin is starting at outside back and Smith has brought versatility to a number of positions, along with having ability to finish up front, according to Schiappa. Those, along with Steve Cicero, a senior leader at outside back, have also been key in the defense. Seniors Sam Heeter and Nick Szabala start at outside midfield, while classmate Jordan Bellitto and juniors Larry Speiser and Josh Hector will also be looked to for contributions.

Also locally, Frontier’s offense is as explosive as it has been in years. That has coincided with the return of Brandon Galanti to the Frontier soccer program.

After playing last season for the Buffalo Soccer Academy, the senior forward has already scored six times, with a pair of hat tricks in Frontier’s first three games, two of which were victories.

During those wins, the Falcons put up 14 goals in beating Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda. Fellow senior Nick Bossert, a center midfielder, has notched 4 goals. Senior defender Matt Fabian joins his two teammates as a captain.

“It’s going to be a different team in some ways; we have some offensive firepower that we haven’t previously had,” Frontier head coach Nick Christou said. “I think we’re going to score some goals. Even when we got shut out [1 – 0] by Williamsviille North, we had enough opportunities to score two or three times.”

Senior midfielder/forward Alec Loveless and junior midfielder/defender Tom Sentz returned from last season, while senior Zach Perkins stepped in as the full-time goalkeeper. Sophomore Steven Hoage has been a welcome addition to the midfield, Christou noted.

Senior returner Parker Lindsay is leading a young defensive corps at sweeper, while freshmen Justin Weiskerger and Drew Fiutko stepped in, to contribute to the unit. Nick Notto returned as an outside backer and Daniel Hiam is a junior who will see time on defense.

While Frontier will continue to have its hands full with perennial large school powers Clarence, Lancaster, Williamsville North and Orchard Park, the rivalry with Hamburg will have a little more juice in it as both teams are off to a solid start. The two teams will play on Sept. 23 at Frontier.

“That should be interesting,” Christou said. “They’ve improved and we’re better than we were last year. We’ll see how it unfolds.”

Lake Shore will look to build on last year’s record-setting season behind senior captain Wade Bergum, who led the league with 28 goals, last season. Senior captain Bryce Parker-Norton will again be in net, also coming off a school record for shutouts. Sophomore Chris Beckley will be counted for additional offense, while classmate A.J. Bergum and senior Kenny Pierce should be able to control the midfield, according to their coach. Pierce scored the game-winner in a 1 – 0 overtime win against Holland. Parker-Norton notched the shutout in net.

Returning players Andrew McDonagh, Adam Pisarski and Jerry Yeates will be looked upon to shore up the back line defensively. Lake Shore will also be adding youth to this season’s squad, with freshmen Andrew McDonagh and Max Eastman expected by Taylor to make major contributions. The Eagles league record is now 0 – 1 and 2 – 2, overall.

Also, in the final of the Danny Durrick Memorial Tournament to open the season, the Eagles lost to West Seneca West 3 – 1. McDonagh scored the lone goal for Lake Shore. The Eagles advanced with a 5 – 1 victory against Springville. Chris Beckley scored twice and set up another goal for Lake Shore, while Kenny Pierce added a goal and an assist and Shaun Duffey and Bergum each scored.

Eden may be an experienced team, starting 10 seniors, but head coach Tom Wall said the team lost the entire center of the field from last season. The Raiders are replacing their goalie, center defense, center midfield and striker, all of whom were first and second team all-division selections last year.

Eden will feature three-year varsity members Jon Bley and Brad Palmerton as the team captains. Bley, a striker, scored 11 goals last year and Palmerton is the sweeper for a defense that already has two shutouts in as many games. Other key players will be juniors Anthony Sinnott and Henry Ohmit, who moved from outside to central midfielders and will be relied on to control the pace and tempo of the game, Wall said. The defense will also return Matt Henry, Peter Schmitz and Robert Congdon, in a stated effort of bettering the nine-shutout performance of last year. Goalkeeper Joe Cuddihy stepped into the starting role.

Eden finished second in Erie County Interscholastic Conference IV behind Lackawanna, but Wall said that his team could be among the two to three challenging for a title in 2013. “We hope to be one of those teams,” Wall noted. “We came in second last year with two close losses to Lackawanna, which we hope to reverse.”

St. Francis already has an appearance in last year’s Monsignor Martin final to build on; now it brings back 11 players from a team looking to make its way back. Returning All-Catholic selections Aaron Hayes and Samuel Eggleston head this group, as the Red Raiders’ one-two scoring punch up front. Matthew Unger and Sean Cook join Hayes as tri-captains.

Expected to aid the team up front are Matthew Eich, Ryan Kawalerski and Unger, while the back line is headed by seniors Brett Bosinski, Sean Cook and Christopher Baich and junior Noah Zydel. Goalkeeper Matt Gabalski played in a 2 – 0 loss to Lancaster. He will share the duties with Alex Davis.

Head coach Mike Smolinski said he expects the Monsignor Martin to be as challenging as ever with Canisius, St. Joe’s and Nichols also making up the large school division. St. Francis opens league play Sept. 11 against Nichols. The Red Raiders will host its annual night game, honoring its seniors, on Sept. 20 against North Collins. Alumni are invited to attend and then congregate at Hoak’s Restaurant for a post-game party.

North Collins, the team’s opponent that night, continues to pride itself on being the model of consistency within its boys soccer program, according to head coach Jay Walters.

This year, there is even more hope in North Collins, as this senior and junior group combined to go unbeaten at the modified level. Coming off a 15 – 3 season and third straight sectional title, the Eagles are also bolstered by the presence of three talented foreign exchange students, Walters said.

“We expect it to be a pretty normal year for us,” noted Walters, which, for his team, means 13 – 15 wins and challenging for a 27th sectional title. “This team’s attitude is even better than I’ve seen in a long time. They’re real determined. This team really has a nice feel for winning.”

Among the 10 seniors, defender Zane Lloyd and forward Jacob Fyock will captain the team. Walters also noted that players to watch include junior midfielders Chris Pulinski and Kyle Loretto. Exchange students Ben Schubert of Germany, Vinchenzo Giancaspro of Italy and Ahmed Ellethy should also contribute some scoring punch.

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