Adirondack has makings of a champion

First-year Adirondack Region open women’s soccer coach Betsy Drambour has inherited an all-star line
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First-year Adirondack Region open women’s soccer coach Betsy Drambour has inherited an all-star lineup that is favored to win another gold medal at this week’s 31st annual Empire State Games.

Drambour is well aware of the label placed upon her team, yet the former standout player at Shenendehowa and George Mason knows it is just that — a label.

“When I was in college, I played on a regional team at the national club championships. We had 11 college All-Americans, including Mia Hamm, and we were horrible,” Drambour said. “We came from different systems and had different philosophies. No one got along. I remember thinking, ‘How can we not be good?’ ”

Despite such enormous talent, that team, Drambour said, never meshed as a cohesive unit. Getting the Adirondack Region team to do so is her prime objective as it seeks a 10th championship and third in four years at Binghamton University.

Opening ceremonies for the Empire State Games are Wednesday night at the university, with competition taking place Thursday through Sunday.

“My job is to bring them together, and have them play as a team,” said Drambour, who has taken over for Robert Parker. “If they do, it’s a wrap. If they don’t, we’ll be in for some battles. The question is, which team is going to show up? The one that’s been there and done that, or the one that’s motivated to play some beautiful soccer.”

This year’s team includes six returning players from the 2007 bronze medalist group, and six newcomers who won gold at the scholastic level last summer in Westchester, including goal-scoring leader Ashleigh Barone. Two ESG first-time participants — Ashley Moore and Lisa Tarquinio — and two others who played in the past at the scholastic level — Marie Mutryn (2006) and Caitlin Colfer (2004) — also dot the roster.

Moore, from Shenendehowa, and Colfer, the Suburban Council’s first female 100-goal scorer out of Col­onie, play at Division I North Car­olina and Ohio State, respectively.

“On paper, we can’t be stopped, but on the field, it’s going to come down to passion and how bad you want it,” said Drambour, a former scholastic and open player for

Adirondack. “The talent is certainly there.”

“My concern is, have they had enough practices together? Are they going to have that chemistry?” said Adirondack Region director Lynn Chabot, who for 19 years played and coached ESG soccer. “You’ve got to have it. If you don’t, you’re at a loss.”

The Adirondack open women lost their opener a year ago to ESG rival Western, 4-0, before beating Long Island, 3-0, and both New York City and Hudson Valley by 1-0 counts. Maria DeMatteo scored two of those five goals, including the first-half game-winner against Hudson Valley in the bronze-medal game.

The other five players who saw action on the 2007 open team are Julie Birbilis, Jaclyn Levie, Jen

Mihok, Jenna Plake and Leah Zappone. Zappone, Mihok and Birbilis are the holdovers from the 2006 gold medal-winning team, while Birbilis, a graduate of Nazareth College, also played for the 2005 champions.

Aside from Barone, those moving up from the scholastic ranks are Meredith Clinton, Alicia D’Alessandro, Meaghan Goodwin, Devon Lutz and Becca Millock. Barone notched five goals a year ago, with the Shenendehowa graduate and Siena-bound Section II Player of the Year delivering two in a 5-1 title-game rout of Hudson Valley. Millock set the tone for that victory with a goal just three minutes into play.

“I know those kids because I coached them with the Alleycats [club team],” Drambour said. “I’m excited to have them play for me. It’s kind of a reunion.”

Adirondack meets Central, Long Island and 2007 silver medalist New York City in the first three days of competition. The medal games are Sunday, and Western comes in as the defending champ.

“I don’t like to lose,” said Drambour, who coaches soccer at Ballston Spa High School and is one of the Capital District’s premier female golfers. “I hope my team has that same attitude.”

Adirondack appeared in six straight gold-medal games and won four of them before last year’s 3-1 showing. The open women’s soccer team is Adirondack’s most successful, in terms of gold medals, with nine.

here and there

u The Adirondack track and field team includes a trio of recent state high school champions in

Madalayne Smith of Saratoga Springs (100 hurdles), Michelle Quimby of Clifton Park (pole vault) and Sarah Palmer of Schuylerville (high jump). Quimby, who tied for third in 2007, set a Section II record at the state championships by going 12 feet. Palmer, the 2007 ESG silver medalist, is the state freshman

record-holder at 5-8.

u Former Saratoga Springs star Tina Villa returns after winning two of the Adirondack Region’s eight track and field gold medals in the open women’s shot put and discus. Brina Sequine of Rensselaer is also back after posting open victories in 2007 in the 10-kilometer road race and 10,000 run.

u Among the other returning champions are cyclist Beth Miller, divers Nathan LaRowe and Ian

Hogan, swimmer Mike Dugan, rower Erin Roche, bowler John

Leone, gymnast Zeke Jackson, weightlifter Erin Burke, shooters Bruce Martinlade, Susan McConnell and Sandra Kregling and wrestler Andrew Loux. A former Bethlehem standout, Loux has been Adirondack’s most successful wrestler over the last two years, with three gold medals and a silver. He’ll be joined on the Adirondack wrestling team by first-time participant Giuseppe Lanzi, a national freshman champion who has amassed 154 wins for Amsterdam High School. The 16-year-old junior-to-be, a 143-pound scholastic free­styler, is a high school All-American, and already a much sought-after collegiate prospect.

u Since rugby became a masters sport in 2004, the Adirondack women have won four silver medals, three times finishing second to Western. The Adirondack women won their only gold at the open level in 2002, and gained bronze in 2003 and 2001. The Adirondack men secured their first gold in 2007, after winning silver in 2005 and 2000. Rugby was first contested in 1999.

u Opening ceremonies will take place at Binghamton Univer­sity’s soccer stadium beginning at 7:30 Wednesday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children (age 6-12). Master pass tickets for the opening ceremonies and all ESG events are $18 for adults and $8 for children. Day pass tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children.

u The 2009 ESG will be held in Mid-Hudson Valley (Dutchess, Orange, Ulster counties) July 22-26. Mid-Hudson Valley served as the host one other time, in 2005. In 2010, Buffalo will host the ESG for the fifth time. Binghamton is hosting for the third time, after stops in 2004 and 2000.

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