Sports

Former Lakeland Soccer Star Represents U.S. in Spain

0eef0a1cfd533a862b5a_42935_.jpg
Former Lakeland player Johnny Denis played for the U-19 U.S. Men’s National Soccer team in the Copa del Atlantico in Spain. Credits: Courtesy of Johnny Denis
0eef0a1cfd533a862b5a_42935_.jpg

SHRUB OAK, N.Y. — It was Sept. 16, 2013, and the sun was setting at Yorktown High School, where the boys soccer team had built a 1-0 lead over rival Lakeland.

Even early in the season, the stakes were high in the crosstown matchup. The tension was raised further when a quick, decisive Lakeland player launched an impressive curling strike to the top-right corner of the net, tying the score at one.

It was enough for me to turn and ask a Lakeland fan, “Who is that?”

Sign Up for E-News

“That’s Johnny Denis,” he replied.

Denis, then a little-known sophomore for the Hornets, produced more magic that night. With time running out, the score still tied at one, he diced through the Yorktown defense, leaving everyone in the dust and slotting the ball past the keeper.

Final: 2-1 Lakeland. The legend of Johnny Denis had been born.

The sophomore would go on to enjoy a breakout season with 14 goals and 10 assists, earning all-state honors. His junior season, he notched an extraordinary 31 goals in 15 games (he had six hat-tricks, including one against Beacon in just five minutes) and was named the Section 1 Player of the Year.

Then, before his senior year, Denis was selected as one of 28 players nationwide for the U-17 U.S. Men’s National Team, and moved to Bradenton, Fla. to train at IMG Academy for the upcoming U-17 World Cup in Chile. As one of the newer players in the program, he did not make the final cut for the World Cup. But Denis got his chance this past February, when he was selected for the U-19 team that played in the Copa del Atlantico in Canary Islands, Spain.

“It’s amazing, you feel a responsibility to perform for your country,” Denis said. “There’s excitement, you’re anxious, but when you put that shirt on and go on the field, you forget about everything and just want to do your best. It’s life-changing.”

Now, Denis is gearing up for his freshman season at Columbia University, where he believes his team can win the Ivy League and go far in the NCAA Tournament. He often trains with New York City Football Club at its facility in Purchase, rubbing shoulders with legends like Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. The U-17 Residency Program that he entered in Florida once housed U.S. soccer stars Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

But despite his growing list of achievements, Lakeland coach Tim Hourahan still knows Denis as the sixth-grader that used to play with, and beat, the eighth-graders in middle school gym class. He remembers when Denis would come down to gym during his lunch period to squeeze in extra soccer, and even wake up before school to get workouts in with Hourahan.

“I have not met a kid like that before,” Hourahan said. “It will probably be a long time before another one is as dedicated, especially at a younger age.”

Soccer has already taken Denis around the world and back, but his career is just getting started. His dream is to play professionally, and scouts have taken notice. Denis’ performance will be tracked at Columbia, and if he gets called back to the U.S. team, the intensity will only increase. But despite the pressure, Denis says he will stay focused.

“Through all the challenges, you just have to keep working and have that goal,” Denis said. “I think the goal is the most important part of trying to accomplish something.”

With that mindset, a bright future awaits Denis. After all, he’s got a knack for scoring goals.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Yorktown

What Is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is a research organization. Apparently, it is funded by the Mercer family, second only to the Koch brothers on the liberal hit list. Both, through their philanthropy, spend millions on various needy organizations like hospitals. What makes them liberal targets is their funding of various conservative think tanks and candidates. I digress.

Cambridge Analytica used Facebook ...

The Best of the Best: Albert Capellini

In the spring of 1991, after answering an ad for a judicial race placed in the local Yorktown paper, I was talked into the unenviable position of running for Yorktown councilman as a Democrat in our then solidly Republican town.

Having been a practicing lawyer since 1974, I felt confident about my qualifications for the position of town judge, but being elected to the Town Board was quite ...

‘Sister Act’: A Musical Like Nun Other

Of all the Broadway musicals I’ve seen over the years at Westchester Broadway Theatre, only a handful have elicited the noisily enthusiastic audience response I observed at the recent opening night of “Sister Act.”

There were outbursts of applause in the middle of some numbers, and several clever turns of phrase sprinkled in the dialogue landed squarely, to the delight of big ...

An Open Letter to the Yorktown Town Board

April 11, 2018

The Yorktown Chamber of Commerce proudly serves as the voice of Yorktown’s vibrant business community. A vital part of our mission is to help improve the quality of life for all Yorktowners.

The chamber’s Board of Directors is more ambitious than ever, as we work hard to find new ways to enhance our great community through marketing opportunities and smartly placed commercial and ...

Cleaning the Empty Nest

Part of the shock of being a part-time empty nester is when the kids come back to visit and I have to watch my house transform overnight from a pristine haven of OCD goodness to a place that looks like an explosion happened at Forever 21.

After my kids moved mostly out, I put away whatever tchotchkes they chose to leave behind and then I put on a hazmat suit and cleaned their rooms until they ...

Why Do Kids Hate Math?

Dear Dr. Linda,

I am in second grade and have a problem about math. My teacher just keeps giving me homework and it’s driving me crazy. Because she keeps giving it to me on weekends and spring and summer breaks. And it’s only one level and it’s too hard. But the other people who have special needs get to be moved into a higher or lower group and they learn even more because ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, April 24, 7:00 PM

French Hill School Building - Cafetorium, Yorktown Heights

Save A life Mini Series: Underage Drinking

Health & Wellness

Thu, April 26, 1:30 PM

United Methodist Church, Shrub Oak

IBM Retirees Club

Community Calendar

Guiding Eyes for the Blind Launches Wag-a-Thon Fundraiser

April 18, 2018

On April 17, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and supporting life-changing connections between people with vision loss and exceptional guide dogs, announced its first annual Wag-a-thon, a “virtual marathon in a month” fundraiser beginning on May 1.

The Wag-a-thon is a cumulative marathon that you and your dog can do anywhere, at your own ...