CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Fall sports are finally on the schedule, and John Jay’s varsity soccer coach, Chris Rietsch, said his boys are excited to be back.  He’s feeling it, too, and isn’t selling the team short for the upcoming season.

“A sectional title,” Rietsch flatly stated his goal.

The coach likely has plenty of company when it comes to dreaming big. But he’s got a good dose of reality to match the aspirations. Only losing two starters and bringing back a large contingent of sophomores and juniors, Rietsch feels that last year’s result gives the Wolves much to build on.

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“We had our first winning season in several years and advanced past the opening round for the first time since 2013,” he said.

Of course, the whole section has come out of the blocks slow because of COVID-19. Limited practices presented the biggest challenge. No double sessions are allowed, he revealed, so getting everyone in game shape is the main concern. Teams probably also have to concede that wearing masks will wind players much faster. As a result, John Jay has expanded their varsity roster and will be quicker to give starters a blow.

In addition, schedule adjustments have put a few different teams on the docket.

On the other hand, Rietsch does have plenty of familiarity to fall back on and begins on offense with Cole Fergusson.

“Cole was All-League and All Section honorable mention last year,” Rietsch said.

The coach also feels pretty good at midfield with Rumi Schemmerer.

“They have more size and can participate more in the physicality of the game,” he said.

On the other side of the field, John Jay will be looking to Josue Giron, Ryan Byrne, Johnny McMahon and Ryan Pollitt to contain the threat.

“They all play well into the future and anticipate the action,” he said.

The pressure released, the defense also proved themselves great decisions makers who could initiate offense in transition. Up the grain a little, Dugan Ellin plays perfect complement at midfield.

“He’s not looking to beat everybody on the dribble,” said Rietsch. “He receives and distributes like the best players out there.”

In net, All-League senior Owen Rabii makes himself heard in goal and gives his coach reason to envision a solid season.

“I expect great things from him this year,” said Rietsch.

The kids coming up, though, have a tall order. Because of returning role players like Matt Macedo and Aidan Kelley, he said, “It’s going to be hard to crack this lineup.”

Still, Rietsch hopes he can get playing time for rookies like Jack Shapiro, Will Pollitt, Lavi Ohana and his son, Jason Rietsch.  Either way, the state championships probably won’t take place. But having seen nearby peers go deep into the fall hasn’t gotten past these players.

“They see how meaningful it can be—especially if they want to play beyond college,” he said.

A week away, John Jay is ready to give it a go and at least play up to their coach’s aspirations. The Wolves are slated to start the season at Edgemont at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.