Rockland-Westchester Challenge highlights Labor Day
Pearl River, coming off marvelous season, to meet rival Lakeland in featured game; Albertus Magnus, which hopes to surprise again, takes on Valhalla
BY MARC MATURO
It’s fitting perhaps that the Albertus Magnus High School and Pearl River High School boys soccer teams, both faced with different challenges this season, get underway on Labor Day at the fourth annual Rockland-Westchester Challenge.
The Challenge, inaugurated three years ago by Lakeland HS, is scheduled at the OMM soccer field complex in Orangeburg. There are five games on the agenda, beginning at 2 p.m., and features the Pearl River-Lakeland matchup at 6:30 p.m.
(Schedule: 2 p.m. – Albertus Magnus vs. Valhalla; North Rockland vs. Scarsdale; 4 p.m. – Tappan Zee vs. Byram Hills; Suffern vs. Mamaroneck; 6:30 p.m. – Pearl River vs. Lakeland)
“It’s a fund-raiser that’s become a tradition,” notes Pirates coach Damon O’Keefe of Tappan, who was a three-sport athlete at Tuxedo HS and later survived three-plus years on the rugby pitch while at SUNY Cortlandt.
This year the beneficiaries are Pearl River senior Francesco Galvano, whose blood cancer diagnosed in middle school apparently is in remission; and two families in need in the community. Galvano, whose recovery has been going well, especially the last three years, said O’Keefe, will be used at a forward position.
Pearl River’s challenge, in particular, is to put last season’s first-ever foray into the state championship game and 20-3 record in the past, while the problem confronting the Albertus Magnus Falcons is replacing a top-notch goaltender and much of its defense corps. (Pearl River’s sectional title was the first for the school since 1995 in boys soccer.)
Coach O’Keefe, who lost three players now at the collegiate level and a team captain who has enough talent to play at that level, realizes the only way to improve upon last season would be to win a state title, no easy task.
“What we’ve been harping on is forgetting the past and moving on,” O’Keefe notes. “We have a good group of guys – the first 11 are skilled with the ball. If we can come together physically and emotionally we’ll be all right.”
At Albertus Magnus, where Coach Fitzpatrick is into his 20th year on the sideline, the Falcons are coming off what he described as a “decent year,” going 8-8-1.
“We surprised (the opposition) a bit last year, so we’d like to improve upon that,” added Fitzpatrick, a 1990 alum of Albertus Magnus who played soccer for the Falcons and then at Manhattan College.
Interestingly, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Coach Fitzpatrick’s 2006 state championship team, which will be inducted into the school’s hall of fame on November 19 (for information call 845-623-8842).
The leading scorer of that team was Kyle Hoffer, who then starred at St. John’s University and only recently stopped playing professionally in Europe. Hoffer will be an assistant coach, as he often contributed beforehand whenever he was in town.
Looking to this season, Coach Fitzpatrick is counting upon several standouts, led by co-captains Kieran Doherty, a junior and the only defender who is returning, and senior center midfielder Joe Michalak.
“He’s a great player, well respected; talks a lot on the field,” Coast Fitzpatrick said of Doherty. Then, assessing Michalak, said “We’re going to run the offense through him. He’s good with the ball, has great vision, can score and is a real hard worker.”
Senior Ellis Sanches, used mostly in the midfield last season, will be tried as a forward this year where he can use his speed and ball-handling.
Pearl River, which has developed a rivalry with Lakeland, is looking for its third straight win against the Hornets – whose coach Tim Hourahan has developed a friendship with his Pirates counterpart.
The Pirates, feels Coach O’Keefe, are very strong in goal with veteran senior Dolan Ocasal. Returning defenders are seniors Christian Madigan and Timmy Valentine.
Coach Fitzpatrick, conversely, has not yet settled on the goalie position, and is planning to use both senior Chris McAvoy and sophomore Steven Travaglini — a field player on the junior varsity a year ago — until a steady starter emerges.
Chris McAvoy’s brother Patrick – now playing at Lasell College in Boston, Mass. – is the big void to fill in net, while Michael Padron was a key defenseman lost to graduation.
“That’s two big holes to fill; they were our captains last year,” concluded Coach Fitzpatrick.
IN BRIEF: The North Rockland HS volleyball team, powered by outside hitter Madison Monahan, opens its season on September 8 at Fox Lane in Bedford. The Red Raiders are expected to threaten in Class AA.
COLLEGIATE CLIPS: The men’s and women’s cross country teams at Nyack College are off and running on September 3, competing in the Wilmington Invite at Carousel Park in Wilmington, Del. The women will race over 5k starting at 9:45 a.m. while the men’s 8k is scheduled to start at 10:30. …The men’s and women’s cross country teams at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill are heavily laden with county talent. On the men’s side, the squad includes junior Vincent Vasquezand freshman Stefan Saeed, both of Stony Point; Kyle Kondracki of Pearl River; Austin Lubbe of New City, and Mich Philistin of Spring Valley, all freshmen; and senior standout Jamar Linares of Nyack. The women’s team includes senior Kaitlyn O’Grady and freshman Aida Torpey, both of Tomkins Cove; senior Jumana Khatib and junior Angelica Matwiejczuk, both of Suffern; and junior Kara Santa Teresa of Nanuet. The Spartans and Lady Spartans open the season onSeptember 10 at the Fordham Fiasco, to be held at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. The women’s race is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. with the men’s race at 10. … The Iona College women’s soccer team, which includes forward Marisa Bentley of Blauvelt, will be home in New Rochelle on September 2 to meet New Jersey Institute of Technology at 3 p.m. … Deja Smith of Suffern is a middle hitter on the women’s volleyball team at SUNY Cortlandt. The Red Dragons are home on Sept. 2-3 for contests against Misericordia, Rochester, Stockton and Alfred. Cortlandt next competes at the Austin College Invitational in Sherman, Texas, Sept. 9-14. … The SUNY Plattsburgh men’s cross country team hosts the Cardinal Classic at Rugar Woods on September 3. The Cardinals feature Clarkstown North HS alum Zach Rose of New City and North Rockland HS graduate Stephen Schnalzer of Garnerville.