NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— The 2016 season will be a commemorative one for North Salem boys varsity soccer coach Ron Hendrie as he enters his 25th season at the helm.
In a perfect world, the veteran coach would love to raise a state championship trophy with his team, something he did in 1993, the first and only state title in the program’s history. With the baseball program doing just that this past spring, it would be something special to keep the momentum going into the fall season.
“The baseball team doing what they did is definitely motivation for the kids to do well this season,” Hendrie said.
But just winning isn’t what makes a successful season, according to Hendrie. Over the course of his career, he has worked on building strong relationships with his players and having them enjoy their time playing on the soccer field.
“When I began coaching, it was about passion. Now, it’s for a purpose. I want to make the experience great for the kids,” Hendrie explained. “I want them to play the game properly, have a passion for it, and hopefully wins will follow.”
He will inherit a team that has 15 players returning from last season and a 6-11 finish. The team dealt with injuries all season along with a schedule that usually pitted them against some of the bigger schools in the area. Despite its record, the team improved throughout the season and made a run to the Class C sectional semifinals, where the Tigers fell to Alexander Hamilton, 1-0.
“We have a nice group of kids who put in a lot of effort,” Hendrie said. “Last season, this team was a relatively young group that dealt with injuries from mostly the senior class. They learned to play without them and hopefully they can continue that into this season.”
The players are still vying for spots and some may see time at multiple positions. The defense will be a deep group that returns five players in senior captain Jake Leicht, senior Nick Delbono, junior Anthony D’Innocenzo, sophomore Kirby Tragesar and sophomore Michael Bossi.
The team lost five players due to graduation, and the biggest void will be at goaltender with the loss of all-league selection Matt Nesbitt. Three players are vying for the starting spot in junior James Buzzetto along with sophomores Zach Cotter and Aenads Eaton.
Five returning players who could see time at midfield are a quartet of seniors in team captain Michael Selzer, team captain John Martabano, Conor Brady, Alonso Reyes, as well as sophomore Luke Devey. The team also returns junior Matt Schembri, who was a manager last season as he sat out due to injury. The forward position returns senior Drin Brahimaj and junior Frank DiGiacomo.
North Salem has seven newcomers that could see playing time including junior midfielders Devan Sheth, Mark Ribaudo, Chase Littenberg and Matt Mazurek. Junior forward Dylan Starace, sophomore forward Dylan Monaghan and sophomore midfielder Nick Aversano are also newcomers to the team.
With the upcoming practices and scrimmages, Hendrie will see how the squad jells as a team and put together a style of play that will give them the best chance to succeed.
“Last year, we had speed and skill and we hope to get that again,” he said. “We want to continue to train the kids and do more than one style of play out on the field.”
What Hendrie also wants to continue more than anything is having a strong bond with the players. He experienced that during his playing days and wants them to have the same positive experience.
“I’ve been asked why I still coach and it’s all about the connection made with the players, he said. “I was able to keep in touch with many of the players I played with in high school as well as my coach. It’s great to see emails from former players or just having them stop by to say hello.”
The team opens the season at home on Tuesday, Sept. 6, in a 4:30 p.m. clash with Yonkers Montessori Academy.