SOMERS, N.Y. - Brian Lanzetta still watches the videos five times a day.
Somers’ boys soccer team won the Class A state championship in Lanzetta’s first season as head coach last year, defeating Grand Island 2-1 in double overtime. It was the first boys soccer state championship in program history and a moment that will always be relished by Lanzetta, his assistant coaches and his squad.
But now it’s a new season and the Tuskers are a new team.
Senior leadership and a physical defense were a staple of last year’s squad. The 2017 version of the Tuskers will be more tactical and should rack up more goals, whereas last year’s team won many tight, one-goal games.
“This year we’re a little bit smaller, but the speed is there,” Lanzetta said. “The guys are fast. All-around at every position everybody seems to have crazy speed. The thing I keep preaching is that everybody plays soccer year-round. The combining of the passing is beautiful, so everybody has a really big soccer knowledge.
“I think these boys have it stated in their mind that we’re here to win and it’s business. Last year we were a completely different team. We were physical, bruising and grinded games out. Whereas this year I feel like we can really control the game technically and play the game the right way tactically. One thing about the summer league that I loved was that one game we literally combined 26 passes together before putting the ball in the back of the net. In high school you rarely see that. I’m really excited this year to watch us play.”
Somers has an endless numberof players capable of creating offensive firepower. That spark will be provided by senior midfielder Jake Faigle along with junior midfielders Jonathan Riina, Lucas Fecci, Max Grell, Alex Maher, Mike Ferraro and sophomore forward Drew Lasher, who scored the game winner in Somers’ 1-0 section final win over Pearl River last season.
“This year is really going to be a breakout season for Max Grell. He’s going to be a big player,” Lanzetta said. “I’m looking for him to really fill that Evan Kieltyka position. Everybody’s really going to have their eye out for Drew Lasher. He’s built, he’s strong and he’s fast. After what he did this summer and the threat he was last year as a freshman, I could see him putting great numbers up his sophomore, junior and senior years. Riina, Fecci, Faigle and Ferraro are all attacking, strong, fast midfielders. Then you have Alex Maher, who is going to be like the conductor. He’s going to be doing one-two touch passing and sending (passes) to the speedy guys. He’s very good with his feet.”
Senior center midfielder Nolan Fierro made a surprise return to the team after playing academy soccer last season. Fierro, a versatile player who can also play forward and on defense, played on the summer league team, which won the championship.
“I played as a sophomore (for Somers) and when that season was over I knew I wasn’t going to play as a junior,” he said. “My thoughts were always to come back as a senior for my last year and play with the kids I’ve been playing with since I was in second grade. It’s great coming back and being part of this family. Obviously it was sad to not be a part (of the state championship) last season, but it’s great to come back and try to do it again. Winning a state championship or the section has always been a dream. Knowing they’ve done it before makes me think it’s possible and we can do it again. That’s the goal for this year.”
His teammates were more than happy to welcome him back.
“It’s a really big plus to our team,” Fecci said. “We were strong without him but we’re even better now with him. He helps everyone around him improve.”
The Tuskers graduated 12 players including a talented, towering defense. That defense featured the likes of Evan Kieltyka, Luke Bugoni, Alex Elconin and goalie Kenny Kurtz. Jack Maher was a clutch midfielder who came through in the biggest of moments for Somers.
The defense will still be a strength with seniors Alex Piazza, center back Matt Sikorski and Andrew Circle leading the way. Newcomer Dillon Conecoff will also be a force on defense.
“Our defense has really good chemistry,” Faigle said. “They all know each other really well.”
Juniors who also can make an impact defensively are Timothy McCormack, Jack Dickson, Aidan Foley and Francisco Cantaorino.
Conor O’Donoghue, a junior, will be the starting goalie. O’Donoghue came through in a big way in Somers’ opening round sectional win over Brewster last season.
“Everybody’s really discounting us that we lost our goalie,” Lanzetta said. “You really can’t replace 6-foot-4 Kenny Kurtz. He was insane last year. It’s hard to replace that, but Conor definitely has the potential and the key skills to be a force back there. He’s very vocal and aggressive. He plays for New York Soccer Club and is a year-round goalie. I think the section will grow to know him pretty soon.”
Two sophomore twins that Lanzetta is excited about are newcomers to the team in Jose and Diego Giron, who are from Guatemala. Sophomore Evan Mazzola is another newcomer who could be a contributor.
Somers doesn’t have the same vocal seniors it had last season as the Tuskers feature lead by example players according to Lanzetta.
“Our senior class is a funny one,” Lanzetta said. “They’re very quiet—they don’t talk at all. But all they care about is winning. There might be a couple juniors in the race for being captains, just because they lead. But the juniors and seniors have such a good relationship—the bond is there.”
Somers opens the season when it hosts defending Class AA state champion New Rochelle at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Class B state champion Hastings will also face Class C champ North Salem at 5 p.m.
“We’re hoping to get a huge crowd and the whole town out here for that,” Lanzetta said. “That is going to be a game that really sets the standard and tone for Somers soccer. I’m looking forward to playing them.”
It’s a Tusker team that will look much different from last year, but the bar is set just as high.
“Our expectations are to win the league, win the section and we’re thinking about going to states and repeating again,” Faigle said. “We’re working hard right now and trying to prepare for New Rochelle.”
Somers doesn’t want to look too far down the line either.
“We just have to take one game at a time and know that the more we improve each game, the easier it will be to get to the states again,” Fecci said. “We just have to know that every [opponent] is coming out for us and they want to beat us. We can’t take any team lightly.”