Garden City boys soccer peaked at the right time last season and it was not hard to see why.
The Trojans started five sophomores in 2017 and the experience they gained throughout the season paid off in the form of a Class A Long Island championship.
Those players are now juniors, who will help form the backbone of one of the better teams in Nassau.
“We won Long Island for the first time since 1996 and we’re returning most of the core that got us up there,” Trojans coach Paul Cutter said. “We started five sophomores who all return and we’re also expecting some big things from our seniors.”
Garden City outscored its opposition by 10 goals in its seven postseason games and did not concede a goal in the playoffs until its 2-0 loss to Queensbury in the state semifinals.
Defender Billy Castoro and goalkeeper Joe Griffin both played pivotal roles in this dominant defensive showing, with the latter stopping 33 of the 35 shots he faced in the postseason.
The keeper was at his best in the biggest moments, stopping a penalty and then scoring himself in a shootout win over Bellmore JFK in the county quarterfinals. He later made seven saves in the county final against MacArthur and 12 more in the Long Island championship against Hauppauge.
Midfielders Ethan Senatore and Joe Bernieri and forward Owen Heaney, who scored the game-winning free kick in the LIC, are the team’s other junior starters.
Seniors James Basile and T.J. Schmitt will also feature in the midfield, while classmate Will Crowley will start on the backline.
“We’re a team that doesn’t have one absolute superstar but we’re very balanced with a bunch of guys who know their roles and responsibilities,” Cutter said.
The Trojans are among a loaded crop of teams in Class A, along with a South Side team that features goalkeeper Danny Kelleher, who made 102 saves last year.
Forward Aaron Jaffee and midfielder Jordan Miller return for Jericho, last year’s top seed in the county.
The competition among the large schools in Nassau looks to be wide open, as a number of strong teams will be looking to dethrone reigning champion Uniondale.
The Knights graduated some explosive players, but still have a solid core, which includes goalie and playoff hero Endi Fernandez (who helped Uniondale win penalty shootouts in the county semifinals and final) and midfielder-turned-center back Justin Wright.
Syosset faced Uniondale in the county final, and will get even stronger thanks to the addition of playmaker Jose Gil-Mejia, who transfered from Hicksville.
The versatile Stone Strongin, one of the top players on the Island, will lead Hicksville. The Hofstra-bound senior will play in the central midfield, but can feature anywhere on the field.
“He’s strong, he’s technical, he has a great shot and is a superior defender,” Hicksville coach Scott Starkey said. Goalkeeper Ryan Miller is another part of a Hicksville that has depth at every position.
Wheatley’s run to the Class B county title was fueled by Nick Tagios, who had 16 goals and six assists in 2017. The Wildcats’ title defense will be contested by Carle Place, which had won the previous two county titles, and Class B newcomer Cold Spring Harbor.