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High School Boys Soccer Preview: WNY Locals affected differently by soccer academy’s decision

St. Francis and Tyler Eister (pictured above left) should see improvement in the Monsignor Martin, while players like Josh Sporyz will have to step up for Frontier in the absence of a lost player to the Empire United Revolution. (Photos courtesy of Ron Larson)

Mike Smolinski expects to be a better team than in the past few seasons, but he also sees his St. Francis squad being more competitive in an always-tough Monsignor Martin because the playing field has been evened.

With the decision of U.S. Soccer to extend its season to 10 months, adding September and October to the schedule, and not allowing their players to participate in the high school season, teams such as MMAA front-runners Canisius and St. Joe’s have lost some of their top players to the Development Academy team Empire United Revolution.

St. Francis has no players in that program, so it does not take a hit, but a number of programs around Western New York cannot say the same. In the MMAA alone, St. Joe’s and Canisius each lost one of its lost top players to the Soccer Academy’s 18-and-under team and another to the U-16 squad. The Revolution are comprised of players from the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse areas.

“This year, that will make things more even in our league,” said Smolinski, whose team comes off a fourth-place finish in the league last season. “Some of our competition felt the affect, where we didn’t. It will even out the playing field and make things more exciting for us.”

All-MMAA Second Team selection Jason Jablonski will be joined by fellow senior defender Drew Bassini as a team captain and lead a core of strong players on the back line. Also back on defense will be returning senior starter Brennan Macy and junior Brett Bosinski.

Smolinski believes much of his scoring will come from junior strikers Sean Cook and Sam Eggleston, both of whom played on the varsity last season as sophomores. Junior Aaron Hayes should also provide some offense while being a solid two-way midfielder. Joining him as a starting midfielder will be sophomore Seth Snyder.

Sophomore Matthew Gabalski has won the starting goalkeeper spot as the varsity newcomer has impressed during preseason camp. Junior Alex Davis should also see time in goal.

Smolinski also believes his team will see improvement in the league standings due to player’s commitment in offseason workouts and training and during practices.

“There was a different atmosphere around this year’s camp,” Smolinski noted.
St. Francis and Tyler Eister should see improvement in the Monsignor Martin, while players like Josh Sporyz (pictured above right) will have to step up in the absence of a lost player to the Empire United Revolution. (Photos courtesy of Ron Larson)

Frontier was setting itself up to be a team on the rise, showing vast improvement during a 10-6-2 season from the year prior, but now its been sidetracked a bit by the loss of Brandon Galanti to the Revolution’s 16-and-under team.

It’s a little more difficult of a hit to absorb for a Frontier program — as compared to a Canisius, St. Joe’s or schools from Williamsville and Clarence. Galanti was an All-ECIC I First Team selection last season as a sophomore.

Frontier head coach Nick Christou is happy that Galanti has received this type of opportunity but feels bad for both the high school, which will be missing such a talent, and the players that would have benefited from his presence.

“I feel bad for players around him that may be affected by him no longer being there,” Christou said. “It’s such a positive that this area produced a player of that caliber, but disappointing that the high school now loses him.”

Still, the Falcons will soldier on, and Christou sees the situation as an opportunity for more of his players to make their marks in 2012.

Some of his players primed to have big seasons are senior tri-captains Kevin Marcinkowski as a defensive midfielder, Josh Sporyz, a central midfielder, and Jim Kryszczuk, who will start at forward. Marcinkowski was already named to the all-tournament team at the Coaches vs. Cancer ECIC/NFL Challenge at Sweet Home, where Frontier went 0-1-1.

Other returning players that should have an impact this season are juniors Nick Bossert at the midfield and Matt Fabian on defense. Fabian is the only starting defender back from last season. Justin Weiskerger, who is the first eighth grader Christou has ever pulled up to varsity, may help on defense and is versatile and athletic enough to see time at other positions, as well. His brother, senior Nathan Weiskerger, will help in the midfield.

Sophomore Alex Olday has stepped in as the regular starter in goal as senior Brandon Jewett nurses an injury. Junior Zach Perkins also may see some time in net.

“The goalie position may be an interesting one for us this year,” noted Christou, last year’s ECIC I Coach of the Year, whose team won a Class AA playoff opener before falling at Orchard Park. “Our entire back line is young and inexperienced.”

As his team continues to adjust and gain experience in certain positions, Christou sees Frontier gaining momentum and strength in time for the Class AA postseason.

“I think the guys will be up to the challenge and I hope they start off the season in a positive way,” Christou said. “We’ll try to get better as the season goes along. I feel confident that we’re going in the right direction.”

New coach for Hamburg

Aaron Grupka takes over as Hamburg’s varsity head coach, replacing James Harrigan, as the Bulldogs come off a 2-14-1 season looking to improve.

Hamburg is off to a 1-1 start, defeating Niagara Falls 3-1 on Sept. 1 after losing to Niagara Wheatfeld 4-0 the day before at the ECIC/NFL Challenge. Junior forward Dan Meissner scored twice in Hamburg’s win. Three-year starting senior forward Cole Beale was named to the all-tournament team. Last year, Beale was an All-ECIC II Second Team honoree.

Grupka will look to four-year varsity midfielder Will Lange, along with fellow senior Tyler Bellitto, as well. Also returning to the Bulldogs are seniors Trevor Lavis and Josh Impaglia (defense), Liam McFall and Matt Odre (goalie) and Jack Cody (midfield), along with junior midfielder Zach Dake.

Lake Shore continues steady improvement

The expectations around Lake Shore are as high as they’ve been in years.

Already 2-0 starting the season with a pair of non-league wins, third-year head coach Paul Taylor looks for his team to continue the improvement made in 2011 during a 7-9-1 season. Lake Shore finished 4-12 the year before and 2-13-2 in 2009.

The Eagles should continue to get much of their offense from last year’s leading scorer Wade Bergum, a junior who has already netted four goals in the first two games. They also welcome in Wade’s younger brother, freshman AJ Bergum, who looks to be a pure scorer like his sibling, having netted the game-winner in the second overtime of a 2-1 win over Depew. He also notched a goal and assist in a 7-0 win over Silver Creek on Aug. 30

The defense will be led junior first-year starting varsity goalkeeper Bryce Parker-Norton and senior captain and central defender Jon Weber, an All-ECIC III Second Team selection last year. Senior Kyle Tezanos also returns as a strong outside defender, while joining the defensive side are juniors Kenny Pierce and Jerry Yeates. In the midfield will be experienced seniors Kade McGarrity and Mike Kushner will be asked to control the play in the middle

Also scoring against Silver Creek were McGarrity, Kushner and Tim Diamond. Parker-Norton notched the shutout in goal. Against Depew, Wade Bergum opened the scoring in the fifth minute off a nice set up by Tony Gee, before the Wldcats scored the equalizer. The Eagles open league play on Friday, Sept. 7 at Springville.

Eden returns seven starters from last year

Some rebuilding last season should pay off for Eden in 2012. Of the Raiders’ starting 11, seven are returning from last year.

Among those coming back from a 6-6-3 season for Eden are three-year varsity start in the midfield, Jesse Dranger, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 shutout of Cheektowaga on Aug. 31 to open the season.

Junior Jon Bley and transfer Ayman Salem, an exchange student from Egypt, should lead the offense, while Tyler Bernas is expected to control the midfield and will be relied upon to dictate the pace of the games, according to his coach, Tom Wall. Defensively, senior captain Alex Pustulka and junior Brad Palmerton are returning starters slated to run the defense.

Last year’s back-up goalkeeper Tyler Gates steps into the starting role. He’s already recorded a shutout in the opener. Also in a captain roles this year are defenders Tyler Bernas and Tyler Gates.

Wall expects last year’s ECIC Division IV front-runners Holland and Lackawanna to remain very strong, and Tonawanda is scheduled to return some of its best players. Alden is a quickly improving program, Wall said, while Depew drops down into the division.

North Collins to be force

North Collins head coach Jay Walters believes he should field a very strong team this year as the Eagles begin their defense of a Class D title and attempt to win the program’s 25th overall.

Much more of an experienced team than last season, North Collins features a veteran midfield, welcomes back a key striker and lauds depth on the back line and in goal. The Eagles finished 9-9 last season and captured the Class D title over Ellicottville in penalty kicks.

Seniors Todd Youngman and exchange student Constantine Goetsch will anchor the center neutral transition zone in the midfield, flanked by senior Cody Feltz and junior Connor Renaldo. In the offensive zone, senior Jared Keppel returns to the field after he missed last season with an injury. Keppel should create opportunities not only for himself, but for the young outside strikers, according to Walters.

Defensively, the Eagles will be a touch faster than usual, aiding them in running a quad defense anchored by fleet-footed senior Garrett Martin, an All-CCAA III Second Team selection, and junior returner Zane Lloyd. They’ll be assisted on the outside by sophomore Jacob Lyndsley and freshman speedster Jacob Jazinski.

Walters believes the Eagles are loaded with goalie talent. Kyle Loretto has taken the lead role but also challenging for playing time in goal has been senior newcomer Jordan Keough, who will take some turns as a striker.

“There is talent left waiting to earn their spots on the bench and hungry junior varsity guys that desperately want in on the varsity action,” Walters noted.

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