66° Good Morning
66° Good Morning
SportsHigh SchoolBoys Soccer

Wantagh's Chris Taibi finds success going from offense to defense

Wantagh High School's Jordan Sabinsky, Chris Taibi, Lucas

Wantagh High School's Jordan Sabinsky, Chris Taibi, Lucas Neroda and Johnathan Alter enjoy some time together before the start of the Nassau County Soccer Coach's Association Annual Award's Dinner. (Dec. 3, 2013) Credit: S. Morris

At first, like any good captain, Chris Taibi told his Wantagh soccer teammates to stay positive when the lopsided losses started to accumulate earlier this season.

When the Warriors lost to Great Neck North, 5-1, on Sept. 17, Taibi became convinced a change was needed.

Taibi, who was voted by the coaches last year as the top player in Conference A-I, thought he should be switched from midfield to defense.

Taibi kept the idea to himself because "we have a good coach who knows what he's doing," he said. The funny thing is, Wantagh coach Tom Liguori was thinking the same thing.

The two had never discussed the change, but at Wantagh's next practice following that loss, Liguori made it official: Taibi, who plays defense on his club team, would be Wantagh's new starting center back.

"We were very thin in the back so I went back to the drawing board," Liguori said. "I put him back there because he's our best player. Why not put your best player where you're most susceptible?"

Said Taibi, "I was really happy because it was the exact thing I was thinking should happen."

It's worked. Wantagh is 2-2-2 since Taibi was moved with a goal differential of zero. The Warriors were previously 1-3 with a goal differential of minus-10.

It took one play, Taibi said, for him to realize the change was for the best. In his first game on defense against Bellmore JFK on Sept. 19, Taibi made a swift tackle to prevent a goal on a breakaway. At halftime he told Liguori, "I think this is it. They're not going to score from here." Wantagh won, 1-0.

"We just needed someone we could rely on in the back," Taibi said. "When I got back there, I started to take control and it helped our team a lot."

Taibi played so well in a game against Jericho that Jayhawks coach Dani Braga walked over to Liguori and asked who No. 8 was playing defense.

"I remembered Taibi from last year, but I had no idea Tom put him in the back," Braga said. "He won every ball and made things difficult for us. I think he's the county's best player."

Despite Taibi's strong performance, Jericho beat Wantagh, 1-0. Afterward, Liguori asked his players to write a description of their strengths and weaknesses. Taibi wrote one of his best strengths is his integrity.

"That's like a huge part of who I am," Taibi said.

In fifth grade, Taibi said he saw a group of kids attempt to forcefully tie one of his friends to a tree. Taibi said he was the only one who stepped in to protect the friend.

"A lot of people didn't like that because I went against what everyone wanted to do," Taibi said. "But I knew what I did was the right thing to do. Ever since then I've always been one to do the right thing."

It carries over on the soccer field.

"My whole thing is I want to play with integrity and do what I think is right," Taibi said, "even if it's not something I particularly want to do."

Even if that means playing defense instead of creating scoring plays in an effort to win games.

More high schools