The verdict is in. Brentwood has edged out defending state champion Whitman for the top spot in the Suffolk County Soccer Coaches Association boys preseason poll.
“I just don’t think we get the respect we deserve,” Whitman senior Blake Aronson said. “We love it,” teammate Sean Zagorski said.
Whichever way you spin it, Brentwood and Whitman are the favorites to win the Suffolk Class AA title.
Brentwood returns Roberto Ventura (18 goals and 7 assists in 2015), Jorge Hernandez (6 and 10) and Dennis Martinez from last year’s 18-2 team, while Aronson and Zagorski headline Whitman’s experienced group that outscored its opponents 12-4 in the state final four last year.
“It puts our name out there that we’re still No. 1,” Hernandez said, “but we’ve got to show that we’re No. 1 and if we get the chance to (play) them that this time it’s going to be different.”
Commack, led by Scott Cebollero, and Half Hollow Hills East, led by Sam Steinberg, are two other top candidates to make a run at the county title. With Kevin Martinez up front and several other pieces back from a 2015 playoff squad, Floyd is a darkhorse to watch.
In Nassau, Hicksville and Syosset are the favorites to face the Suffolk AA winner in the Long Island championship. The Comets won the 2015 county championship, and return nearly everyone, most notably center back Matt Sloan, midfielder Storm Strongin and goalkeeper Connor McPartland.
“I think we could really make a lot of noise,” Hicksville coach Scott Starkey said. “If we stay healthy, we’re really loaded.”
For the Braves, midfielder Richie Rambarran and center back Griffin Halpern are the seniors tasked with guiding a deep, experienced group of juniors. Syosset went 12-4-1 last year.
In Suffolk, defending state champion Amityville is the favorite. Forward/midfielder Rolman Guardado, forward/midfielder Oscar Hernandez, midfielder Kevin Medrano and defender Angel Zavala headline the Warriors’ returning cast.
“Before people thought ‘oh, we’re versing Amityville. It should be an easy game,’” Guardado said. “But now that we won states and we upset people, everybody is going to be coming strong, want to beat us after we won it. They’re going to want to beat us to say ‘oh, we beat the state winners.’”
That’s certainly true for Glenn, expected to be Amityville’s top challenger. The Warriors eliminated the Knights in overtime in the county semifinals last year.
“That was heartbreaking, honestly,” said midfielder Andrew Lule, a key returnee along with forward Luke Karen and goalkeeper Chris Spalding. “I see that last goal in my mind all the time. It’s the only thing I think about.”
In Nassau, Carey, Jericho and Glen Cove seem poised for memorable seasons. Midfielder Nick Acquafredda headlines an experienced group at Carey, which reached the 2015 semifinals as the No. 18 seed. Goalkeeper Tyler McElhinney and midfielder Matteo Martino lead a Jericho squad that fell in the county final last year, and forwards Delwin Hernandez and Jelson Bonilla and defender Luis Guillen lead Glen Cove, which went 10-2-2 in 2015.
Southampton and Wyandanch, the 2015 county finalists, moved up to Class A, opening the door for Eric Amaya and Center Moriches and Axel Rodriguez-Canel and Mattituck in Suffolk.
In Nassau, Tommy Browne and Carle Place are the favorites. Nick Tagios and Wheatley are a close second.
Dylan Clausen and a young Southold team appear headed for another date with Charlie Pintado and Pierson/Bridgehampton in the county final.
Chaminade is the defending state champion and returns Matt Vowinkel (24 goals and five assists in 2015) and Andrea Codispoti. St. Anthony’s, which lost to Chaminade in the league championship last year, is the likeliest challenger to dethrone the Flyers. The Friars return Giancarlo Franco, Ryan Carfora and several others from a team that went 16-2-2 a year ago.
“I know how hungry you want to be to come back and take it,” Vowinkel said. “I know that they’re ready and they’re preparing and all they want is us. It’s going to be a battle.”