By A. Wroblewski & A. Dollinger
Given the rain coming down today, the Suffolk County Class AA soccer finals were moved to Friday. Commack and Walt Whitman High School’s varsity soccer teams now have more time to mentally prepare for the cross-town showdown. The Cougars are coming off a shutout semifinal win, while the Wildcats got to the finals in a major upset over No. 1 Brentwood.
Cougars Prep For Finals
As Friday’s Suffolk County Final approaches, the Commack High School boys varsity soccer team is still trying for its “perfect game,” said Coach David Viegas.
“We all believe we’ve been playing well; we still haven’t played our perfect game yet,” Viegas said.
In a game that resulted in a couple of injuries, the team defeated North Babylon on Monday, 2-0, bringing its overall record to 17-1-1.
“We had a couple nervous moments in the beginning,” Viegas said. “But… they didn’t score, we came down midway through this first half and scored 2 goals in four minutes.”
Going into the Nov. 6 final, the team just has to worry about its own playing, Viegas said.
“We’ve got to worry about our team and what we do, what we do well, and continue to refine that and continue to push and just… grind out another good game,” he said on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, Viegas said he was unsure what the team’s strategy would be for Thursday’s game because of the team’s injured players.
All-State player Justin Cebollero continues to be the team’s leader as the main goal scorer, he said; in October, he referred to Cebollero as the team’s “catalyst.”
But Cebollero is part of a team, Viegas noted during the same interview.
“Even though he’s kind of been our catalyst, we have other players that have really embraced their roles and have been superb also,” he said. “It’s not just a one-man team… It’s really been a collective effort from 30 kids.”
This year’s team consists of “the same core of kids” as last year’s, who finished last season at 13-3, he said.
The New York State Sports Writers Association ranked the Commack High School boys varsity soccer team second in New York State this year.
Wildcats Shock Indians, Advance To County Final
1996 – That year was the last time Walt Whitman High School played in a Suffolk County boys soccer championship game. Now it’s 2014, the boys are once again playing for it all, and it’s eerily similar to the ’96 run.
“The guys know that they work extremely hard and they know that nothing is going to come easy for us,” Wildcats Head Coach John DiGiacomo said in the days after No. 4 Whitman (15-3-1) shocked No. 1 Brentwood (16-2-1) in overtime, 2-1.
The upset for the Wildcats came on Monday in the county semifinal on Brentwood’s field. Michael Lorello, a junior midfielder, was credited with the game-winner for Whitman on a miscue by the Brentwood defense that sent Lorello’s free kick into the back of the net. Fabrizio Chamorro opened up the scoring for Whitman in the second half to tie the score 1-1. Goalkeeper Austin Salas made 6 saves in the win.
Now, the Wildcats are preparing for a county championship game against No. 2 Commack (17-1-1) – just like they did in ’96.
But the similarities don’t end there.
Brian Karcz – then a Whitman player, now the team’s assistant coach – played in the ’96 game and scored a hat trick that not only won the Wildcats a championship, 4-3, but also enshrined Karcz as the school’s all-time leading single-season scorer (23). Heading into Friday’s game – to be played at Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley at 6:30 p.m. – Wildcats junior Witman Hernandez is just one goal shy of meeting Karcz’ record; he has 22 goals in 2014. Through the playoffs, Hernandez has 5 goals in three games.
“We’ve been able to win games without him scoring; we beat Brentwood without him scoring,” DiGiacomo said. “But if he’s on the scoreboard it means we’re doing good things.”
Hernandez may very well be an x-factor for Whitman heading into Friday’s game against Commack. DiGiacomo, though, said most of the game will require a team effort from the Wildcats, one in which they need to “dictate how the game will be played.”
X-factors, strategies and crowd support aside, DiGiacomo said, the coaching staff’s most important task is making sure the Wildcats are relaxed.
“We have to tell them, ‘Guys, just have fun,’” he said. “Soccer is supposed to be fun, and win or lose we’re extremely proud of the point at which they’re at.”