Not a ‘reloading year’ for boys soccer

Experienced team to follow in footsteps of 2020 graduates

Luke+Palamidis+launches+the+ball+downfield.+The+boys+soccer+team+will+look+to+returning+players+-+like+Palamidis+-+to+step+up+this+season.

Matt Austin

Luke Palamidis launches the ball downfield. The boys soccer team will look to returning players – like Palamidis – to step up this season.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

The 2020 boys soccer team will need its experienced players to step up after losing a large portion of its 2019 team to graduation. (BJ McGrane)

There is no shortage of experience for Pascack Valley boys soccer in the upcoming season, even after losing almost two dozen players from its 2019 team to graduation. Those seniors were the backbone of the team, as they were relied on for consistent play on both sides of the ball.

“Just because we graduated so [many players] last year doesn’t mean that we’re young,” coach Luciano Cofrancesco said. “We do have that experience and we’re looking for those guys who were with us last year to really step up and continue moving the team in the right direction.”

With such a large group of upperclassmen in 2019, there was no lack of leadership on and off the field. This season, Cofrancesco looks to his returning players to carry on the tradition of strong leadership.

“The returners who were with us last year definitely saw how [last year’s seniors] did it. That group last year was phenomenal,” Cofrancesco said. “We’re looking for [this year’s] upperclassmen group to educate and show the way the program is run.”

Three All-League First Team players in Brayden Schwartz, Nick Londono, and Nate Dedrick led the charge last season for a Pascack Valley team that was crowned champions of the Patriot Division. Most of the time, the loss of so many key players would result in a team taking a step back.

But Cofrancesco has no intentions of taking his foot off the gas pedal.

“Everyone says that since we graduated 20 seniors this is a reloading year,” Cofrancesco said. “I’m not looking at it as a reloading year.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean the team expects to win every game, but that may not be what matters most.

Wins and losses are important to any team, but Cofrancesco values something more meaningful than numbers: development.

“We never want to be a flash in the pan,” Cofrancesco said. “You always want the program to continue to grow for the future. [Whether] that’s with me or another coach. You never want to see the program die.”

You always want the program to continue to grow for the future. [Whether] that’s with me or another coach. You never want to see the program die.”

— Luciano Cofrancesco

Valley will need some of its past development to pay dividends, as it will need its upperclassmen to not only show leadership, but the juniors and seniors will have to produce on the offensive end as well.

Seniors Luke Palamidis and Jake Wolf, along with juniors Mike Caminneci and Nick Bonanos will lead the way for PV this fall.

“What they do is going to drive our engine for this year,” Cofrancesco said. “They’re the new driving force that we’re looking for to really propel us into the season.”

Even in a brief preseason, Cofrancesco sees potential in the team’s ability to put up points. The aforementioned “driving force” will have a supporting cast that features senior Massimo Ansolone and sophomore Shane Feder who will help put the ball in the net.

“If we can find a way to score, I think we’ll be pretty successful,” Cofrancesco said. “Hopefully that will be one of our strengths.”

The team has an abundance of players to step up, but there are bound to be some gray areas in the lineup after losing so many key players from the year prior. For Valley, the midfield is certainly one of those gray areas.

“With all of those guys I mentioned that [graduated], the midfield is just a question mark right now,” Cofrancesco said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to control games, as opposed to just [rushing].”

Sophomore Ian Hagen appears to be a candidate to fill that “question mark” that lies in the midfield.

“I think [Hagen] can do some nice things in the midfield for us,” Cofrancesco said.

Defensively, Pascack Valley has a distinct dynamic between returning starters and players who could find themselves in roles on the defensive end for the first time. Second-year starters in Wolf and junior Max Van Gyzen could be accompanied by seniors Griffin O’Hea and Jeff Snyder, with the latter two being put into unfamiliar situations on defense.

Seeing the field for significant time in 2019 means that experience will be in O’Hea and Snyder’s favor, even if they are converting to new positions.

“It’s not like [O’Hea and Snyder] are fresh to the game,” Cofrancesco said. “It’s just more of seeing if they can convert into that spot for us for the season.”

In any other year, some of these unknowns would have been solved earlier, but the pandemic got in the way of the usual offseason routine.

The team usually starts playing together in June, then partakes in a preseason tournament in the summer, followed by a “lengthy preseason” in August. As a result of COVID-19, practices could not be held until mid-September, leaving only about two weeks’ worth of time for the team to get acclimated.

“Anything that we would’ve taken care of in the summer, unfortunately we have to chunk it down and shrink it into this 12-day period,” Cofrancesco said. “[We’re] trying to prepare the boys in a very short period of time to be competitive.”

The rocky preseason situation is not discouraging PV, as the team recognizes that its a gift to even be able to play, with all of the concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“We’re lucky we’re playing,” Cofrancesco said. “So we’re happy that we’re out there on the field.”