Before the Amityville boys soccer team went upstate, coach Mike Abbondondolo gathered his players. He went around the huddle, addressing each one and reminding them of adversity they had faced.
The meeting served as a reminder of how far the Warriors had come in the three years since Abbondondolo took over the program.
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“They had to come out of the other side of that to be here,” Abbondondolo said.
“Here” ultimately meant back home, three weeks after winning the program’s first state title, still on cloud nine.
But first Victor Cobos had to play right back rather than midfield. Haubry Gomez had to shift from forward — where he scored 13 goals this year — to midfield, opening a spot up front for Rolman Guardado, a freshman who would score the winners in the Long Island championship and the state semifinal.
“[Cobos and Gomez] might not have been happy, but they accepted it for the better of the team,” Abbondondolo said.
There were other types of adversity, too, from a foundational standpoint.
Three years ago, defender Juan Salazar said the Warriors laughed when Abbondondolo instructed them to run two miles in the first preseason practice. Abbondondolo said players did not always take practices seriously, that some even missed games for reasons such as birthday parties.
“We messed around a lot,” Salazar said.
But once the Warriors identified Abbondondolo’s passion, they bought into his system. The senior group of Salazar, Gomez, Cobos, Josue Martinez, Kevin Ramirez and Ernesto Gomez played three years under Abbondondolo and helped lay the program’s foundation.
“You definitely need those kids to build the culture,” Abbondondolo said.
Amityville went 4-9-2 in 2013, Abbondondolo’s first year, and improved to 11-6-1 in 2014. This year, with former North Carolina State midfielder Chris Gannon joining a staff that included Mike Abbondondolo Sr., the Warriors won eight of their first 10 matches. But then they lost three straight. Adversity, again.
“After those three games,” Salazar said, “my hopes kind of went down the drain.”
Abbondondolo could not specify what changed, but Amityville (17-5) never lost again. The Warriors, who rebounded with a 1-0 win over Islip on Oct. 16, will take a nine-match winning streak into next season.
After Amityville defeated Pearl River, 2-0, in the state Class A final, Salazar and Oscar Hernandez, who scored the first goal, doused Abbondondolo with ice water. They probably laughed years earlier, in disbelief, when their coach said he would embrace an ice bath only if it was after a state title. This time, they laughed again, because they couldn’t believe what they accomplished.
“I really can’t wrap my mind around it,” Salazar said. “Everybody knows us as ‘the state champions’ now. Nobody calls us ‘the soccer team.’”