On Sunday, I went to Suffern Middle School to catch the scrimmages that the Mounties were hosting. A lot of the area’s top teams were there, along with out-of-section schools Montville, Ramsey, Morristown and Ridgewood.
I managed to catch up with Suffern, Brewster, Hen Hud and Somers, who were all present at the scrimmages. North Rockland and Yorktown were also around. My colleague Evan Fallor caught up with the Raiders a couple weeks back, and I previewed the Huskers a few days ago.
With that, here is what I came away with for Suffern and Brewster:
While all coaches have to deal with the X’s and O’s and conditioning in the pre-season, Suffern coach John Callanan and his staff have another one on top of all of that.
Which young players should stay up with the varsity squad and not get as much playing time, or which ones should go to the junior varsity but not be challenged as much?
It would be tough for anyone argue that it’s a bad issue to have.
“We have tremendous parity among the players,” Callanan said. “We got more options this year. We got rotations we can run with the younger kids, with some sophomores and freshman coming up.”
The Mounties have been Section 1’s dominant program the last couple of years, and have only one accomplishment left: a state championship. The team has been stopped at the state semifinals the past two seasons, including a 9-7 loss to Section 11’s West Islip last season.
With the entire starting 11 from last year back, and having only graduated one player, Danielle Dgheim, Suffern looks primed to make another run for that state title.
““They are really motivated. To get there and to win (the state championship), you always need a little bit of luck, and it just seems like we ran out of luck late the past two seasons,” Callanan said. “I think the focus for us is to work hard and have fun with it. There’s no pressure, just play your game and enjoy the time.”
While the team has outstanding depth, players to watch include Baley Parrott, Caitlin Leary and goalie Mikaila Cheeseman.
““We always joke that if we’re good enough, we don’t need luck, but you always need luck,” Callanan said. “They are an exceptional group of kids, so win or lose, they’ll get a lot out of this season.”
It may be the last season for Gerry Walsh before he retires, but the Brewster coach is still working harder than ever to prepare his team for the upcoming season.
There is especially much work to be done, with the weather limiting the Bears’ time out in the field. So what did Walsh emphasize in the scrimmages?
“Team defense, good communicating, spacing,” he said. “When you’re in a gym, all that stuff goes out the window.”
Brewster graduated eight seniors from last year’s team, including midfielders Lily Lleshaj and Stephanie Chadnick, and will be relying especially on juniors and younger players this season.
The youth of the team, while flashing potential, was evident at times during the scrimmages.
“To be honest, I think we’re struggling, but I’m sure everyone is in the same boat,” Walsh said. “We’ve only been on the field three times, so there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t had a chance to work on, but with an inexperienced group, it’s magnified.”
While the team his thin at the midfield spot, Walsh likes the talent and potential on defense and on the attack. Natural lefty Taylor Doria, a junior who spent last season on the junior varsity squad, should make an impact on the offensive end. Senior defender Caitlin Parise and junior midfielder Mary Kate Lonegan will bring experience.
In goal, sophomore Amelia Cuomo has been pushing incumbent junior starter Erica Marlowe for more playing time.
“From a coaches standpoint, you hope they put their best foot forward on the field every time they step on the field,” Walsh said. “That’s what we preach.”
With a young team, Walsh is preaching a patient approach for his squad.
““It’s pretty much the same every year,” he said. “You hope that you improve every game, improve every day, and you hope that by the end of the year, you can compete.”
Photos by Adrian Szkolar/The Journal News