ALLEGANY, NY -- As practice concluded Wednesday, Coach Jon Luce addressed his team one last time, a night before the playoffs. The Allegany-Limestone Gators’ men’s soccer team went undefeated in league play and finished the year at 15-1 overall ranked ninth in the state.
But the team has more business to handle with the playoff set to begin.
“We have to be ready, switched on,” Luce said to his team, “Let’s go out and take care of business tomorrow.”
Luce and his Gators will look to make it four straight Far West regional titles as they begin their playoff journey Thursday. The Gators will battle Randolph in a 3:30 p.m. match at the Marra Athletics Fields Complex at St. Bonaventure University.
Luce, in his 12th season as the men’s soccer coach is also the athletic director at Allegany-Limestone High school. During his tenure, the Gators’ have been dominant, winning the league the last three years and going to the Far West regionals four total times.
Luce said it is a challenge to replace players who leave, and gett a new group of players to perform just as well.
“The goals of last year are this year’s expectations,” he said. He said it took his team all of preseason to learn how to communicate properly. Last year the Gators had more vocal players who have since left, new ones needed to step up for this season, he added.
Even a dominant year can have rough stretches. Staying ready for every game posed the biggest threat to the team, Luce said. Sometimes when the Gators faced a weaker opponent, it was difficult to get the players to match their intensity from the bigger games.
“One of our biggest challenges is not becoming complacent,” Luce said.
Luce said his team’s selflessness is its best quality. He talked about the team members playing for each other, not the stats.
“In our game against Pioneer, we had a senior who could have scored from 18-yards out. Instead he set up a teammate who put the ball in the net,” he said.
Some of these players have been on the team for three to four years and know what is expected of them.
Allegany-Limestone collected 10 shutout victories in the regular season. Luce credited his defensemen and midfielders for keeping the pressure off of his goalie.
“It’s everyone in front of me. I’m just the last person. They work the whole game to keep the ball from getting to me,” said Conner Golley, a junior in his third season as the Gators’ keeper.
“We have more will this year. All the guys were disappointed about not making states last season, but I think this can be our year," Golley said.