So, who is the favorite to win the Nassau Class AA boys soccer title this season?
“I’d give ourselves the nod, honestly,” Hicksville coach Scott Starkey said. “I know there’s teams like Calhoun, Massapequa and Syosset, but we have some big talent on our roster.”
True, the Comets graduated Matthew Sloan (American University) and Storm Strongin (Hofstra). But Storm’s younger brother, Stone, is a talented junior defender who has started every game in his three varsity seasons, according to Starkey. Strongin and junior midfielder Jose Gil-Mejia are two of the top players on Long Island.
Hicksville also looks to junior goalkeeper Ryan Miller and senior midfielders Francesco Cirigliano and Jonathan Rojas, who hope to lead the Comets to their second county title in three seasons.
“I hope I’m right,” Starkey said. “This is the deepest team I’ve had.”
The Comets will need that depth in the super-tough Nassau AA class. Calhoun graduated seven starters from its Long Island Class AA championship team, but it’s “Next man up,” according to Calhoun coach Jim Cantley. The Colts will rely on talented junior forward Alex Sipos in their title defense.
Massapequa is in search of its first outright AA title since 2013, when it also won a state championship. The Chiefs are led by a pair of seniors: forward Jake Bresnihan, who had 11 goals and six assists last season, and defender Erik Treble.
“I didn’t know what to expect from us, but I’m pretty happy so far,” Chiefs coach Matt Burke said. “We’re probably one of five or six teams that could win [Nassau AA] and I’d put myself right at the top of that conversation. I’m excited. We’re young but talented.”
The word talented can also be used to describe Syosset, including senior midfielder and captain CJ Emmerich and senior forward Sal Inglima, who is dangerous on set pieces.
Uniondale, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK, Westbury and others will also be in the AA mix.
“I don’t think there’s a clear cut favorite [in Nassau AA],” Syosset coach Brett Waxer said. “I believe there’s a lot of teams in the mix, which should make for an exciting season.”
Parity is the keyword in this class — four programs have won the last four Nassau A titles. Glen Cove is the defending champ after winning its first county title since 1967.
The Big Red are led by senior forward and captain Jelson Bonilla, who played striker, forward, wing and holding midfielder last year and had eight goals and seven assists. Senior center back Justin Maldonado anchors the defense for Glen Cove, which is down five returning players because of injuries, according to coach Brian Smith.
“Nassau Class A has waves of talent,” Smith said. “We can still compete at a high level, but a lot of teams have caught up to us.”
One of those teams could be Jericho, which won a string of Class A titles from 2011-13. The Jayhawks have one of the best goalkeepers on Long Island in senior Tyler McElhinney.
Fellow senior Alex Cooper is a shutdown defender who is the first point of the Jericho attack, according to coach Dani Braga. Senior midfielder Matteo Martino rounds out the talented trio.
Other top teams in this deep class include 2014 champ South Side, as well as Lawrence, Hewlett, Plainedge, Wantagh, North Shore, Garden City, Great Neck North, Sewanhaka and Carey, among others.
The defending Long Island Class B champ resides in Nassau: Carle Place.
The Frogs have won the last two Nassau B titles. Senior defender Stephen Padilla is the team’s top returning player, as well as a pair of junior returning starters: forward/midfielder Marc Chiappone, and sweeper John Driscoll.
Wheatley, the 2014 Nassau B champs, looks to talented three-year varsity forward Nick Tagios.
Oyster Bay rounds out the class and is looking for its first county title since 1934.
“No one is running away with it [in Class B],” Foraker said. “It’s going to be pretty darn competitive.”