SHRUB OAK, N.Y. - Last year Lakeland’s boys soccer squad enjoyed another successful campaign, finishing 13-4-2 and in the Section 1 Class A tournament, made it to the semifinals before losing at top-seeded Pearl River 4-3.
Lakeland, which beat Class A state champion Somers twice a year ago, also won its fourth straight league title and seventh overall in coach Tim Hourahan’s tenure.
Hourahan, who will enter his 13th year as Hornet head coach, has accumulated a stellar 160-58-15 mark as varsity coach at Lakeland.
“To be honest, we have had some really good soccer players here at Lakeland but most importantly they have bought into the year-round program that we run here,” said Hourahan, whose Hornets won sectional and co-regional titles in 2011. “The kids absolutely put in the time and the results on the field are a by-product of that.”
Lakeland will be looking to continue its success this fall, with the offense being where the Hornets are the most experienced, led by senior captains Dhruv Girgenti, Kyle McHale, Gabe Nieves and Arben Hoxhaj.
“We have four captains that all started and have played major minutes for this program the past three or four years,” Hourahan said. “But more than their ability to score the ball or keep the ball, their overall leadership on the field and in the locker room is what I will demand from them the most.”
Girgenti is a four-year starter who will play all over the field. McHale and Nieves are three-year players who will each be central midfielders with Hoxhaj also being a three-year player and the team’s leading returning goal scorer from last season, tallying eight goals.
Defensively is where graduation hit the Hornets, who lost 14 seniors from last year’s squad, the hardest.
That was in addition to losing their top junior Nayer Guirgus to a season-ending ACL injury that he endured while playing on the Hornets’ indoor winter league team.
“Our success last year was mostly due to our play in the back and we have graduated our goalkeeper and all four of our starting defenders from last season,” Hourahan said. “There have been some rising seniors who have been taking great strides in their game from last year including Matt Maja and Ryan Casey and they both had a very strong summer league. We will lean on these two and look to fill in the rest of our defense over the next few weeks. As for our starting goalkeeper, we have two more seniors in Andres Lopez and Ryan Mathis who have been competing for the starting spot since the winter.”
The goal, as always for the Hornets, is a lofty one.
“The goal for the Lakeland soccer team has been the same for all 13 years that I have been the coach and that is to play for a Class A sectional championship,” Hourahan said. “There are 28 teams in Class A soccer in Section 1 and there are many strong programs. So we will need a daily, consistent approach throughout the season in order to be playing at our top level come October and the one-off nature of the sectional tournament.”
Lakeland will open its season at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at Beacon.
“We have had some real tight games with them over the past few years,” Hourahan said. “In 2016, we won 1-0 in overtime and they return eight starters so this will be a good test out of the box on the road. Due to the early start we will actually play three regular-season matches before our kids step into school for the 2017 school year.”
Those other two games are at home against sister school Walter Panas at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, in the Seventh Annual Michelle O’Brien Memorial Soccer Event and 4:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4 ,vs. Pearl River at Valhalla High School in the Fifth Annual Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge.