MAHOPAC, N.Y.— With a slew of experienced seniors returning in 2017, the Mahopac boys soccer squad has every right to dream big this fall.
“We have a good central core,” fifth-year Indians coach Jim Gencarelli said. “We have some great experience. It’s a great group of guys and they get along real well, which always helps out chemistry-wise.”
Mahopac is coming off a promising 2016 campaign, which saw them go 7-8-2 en route to earning a No. 9 seed in the hyper-competitive Section 1 Class AA playoffs. The Indians fell to eventual New York State champ New Rochelle, 2-0, in the opening round.
Niko DeCola, a junior midfielder, and Augie Djerdjaj, a senior midfielder, return as the headliners. Both earned all-section honors a year ago, flashing their skill on the ball and playmaking abilities in the process.
Senior Max Lichtman, a three-year varsity player with superb vision, stands to be another key contributor in the midfield. The Indians will look for him to spray the ball around the pitch and ignite the attack.
“(Lichtman) sees the field really well, makes the extra pass and finds the open man,” Gencarelli said.
Other returning midfielders to keep an eye on are Joe Dedvukaj (junior), Dan Israel (senior), Kevin Bunyea (senior), James O’Brien (senior) and Conor Walpole (senior). O’Brien has the speed to damage out on the flanks, according to Gencarelli. Newcomers in the midfield include Johnny Bernardi (sophomore), Pat McGrinder (senior), Nick Pawlicko (sophomore) and John Shea (junior). Bernardi has the talent to make his presence known early on.
Mahopac won’t lean too heavily on a No. 1 finisher, however, senior striker Nick Estrada is a proven goal-scorer at the varsity level. Junior Austin Kenny is expected to have an impact up top. DeCola and Djerdjaj will also be counted on to provide a scoring punch from the midfield.
Stalwart Tommy Pereira returns to anchor the defense at center back. He will be joined by a host of veterans, including Michael Long (senior), Jack Sarfaty (senior), Michael Vilas (senior) and Neil Ruocco (senior). Juniors Matthew Komosinski and Logan MacDougall are expected to be in the mix. Keepers Kevin Valdes and Joe Muratore both moved up from the JV and will see time in net.
Mahopac kicks off the season against powerhouse Arlington at Brewster High School on Sept. 2 at 1:30 p.m.
“It’s a league game and we are starting out right away playing a great school that’s real tough competition-wise,” Gencarelli said. “We are focused on them and the season outlook is to take each game at a time.”
The schedule won’t relent from there, as the Indians will do battle in a league that also features John Jay-East Fishkill, Roy C. Ketcham and rival Carmel. And then come the challenging non-league matches against Scarsdale, Horace Greeley, Fox Lane and North Rockland.
“Obviously, our team goal is to do well in the league, try to win the league and win the section,” Gencarelli said. “Like I said, however, we are taking it one game at a time. We are excited for the season to start and we are working hard. Hopefully, we can make a nice little run.”