ROTTERDAM — While most teams are heading to the Section II tournament for the first time in two seasons, it has been three years since the Schalmont boys’ soccer team has been part of the postseason.
The Sabres won the 2018 Section II Class B title, reaching the state semifinals and posting a 18-2-3 record.
Schalmont didn’t go to the sectional tournament in 2019 after going 3-12-1.
The final remaining member of the 2018 squad, senior forward Drew Kusek, is hoping to finish his senior season with another deep postseason run.
“I’m excited for sectionals,” Kusek said. I’m going to give it my all because it could be my last game. I’m hoping we can make it all the way to the end.”
How far the Sabres go will depend largely on how far Kusek can carry them.
Through 16 games this season, Kusek has scored 38 of his team’s 51 goals, accounting for 75 percent of his team’s scoring on the season.
“I haven’t seen a player have as dominant as season as Drew has had in our league in a long time,” Schalmont coach Vito Urbano said. “He’s had a great season despite drawing all kinds of attention from the other teams.”
Kusek has scored in 13 of his team’s 16 games, including a season-high six goals in a 9-1 win over Catholic Central on Sept. 8. He has eight hat tricks on the season, despite being the focus of every opponent’s defensive attention.
“I’ve been getting four-man marked this season,” Kusek said. “It’s kind of funny. It’s made me adapt and it’s boosted my confidence.”
The senior standout is the only player on the team to have scored more than three goals this season.
“Every single team we play knows that Drew is the player they have to stop,” Urbano said. “They know who to stop and know what’s coming, but no one has really been able to stop him this season.”
Kusek said that he is looking to attend Saint Rose or Russell Sage next fall.
Kusek’s scoring efforts have been a bright spot in an uneven season for Schalmont, which is 7-8-1 heading into sectional play.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Urbano said. “We’ve had kind of an up-and-down season. Even some of our games have been up-and-down within the same game.”
When they’ve been on their game, the Sabres have posted some solid wins, including a 3-2 victory over La Salle on Sept. 10. The Cadets earned the top seed in the Class A tournament.
When things haven’t gone well, things have gone very bad, including losing a 3-0 lead to Cohoes in the final 20 minutes of a 4-3 loss on Sept. 27.
“I feel like we started the season strong but we hit a rough stretch in the middle,” Kusek said. “I think we’re finally realizing what we need to do going into sectionals. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better as the season has gone on.”
The Sabres earned the 12th seed for the Section II Class B Tournament and will face fifth-seeded Voorheesville Wednesday at 3 p.m. on the Blackbirds’ home field.
“It’s tough to say how we’ll do. Our biggest issue is inexperience,” Urbano said. “We only have a couple of players that play year-round and that’s not usually the case for us.”
In their regular-season meeting, Voorheesville posted a 4-1 win at home over Schalmont on Sept. 17.
“Voorheesville is kind of in the same boat as us,” Urbano said. “We both have a lot of young players who are learning as they go.”
The winner advances to Friday’s quarterfinals to face either fourth-seeded Broadalbin-Perth or 13th-seeded Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.
“Sectionals is going to be a fun experience,” Urbano said. “We’re going to give it our best shot and see what happens.”
The Schalmont coach said that having Kusek in the lineup means that his team will have a chance regardless of the opposition.
“We have the best forward in our league and maybe in Class B,” Urbano said. “It doesn’t matter that we’re the No. 12 seed. Anytime you have a player like that, you have a chance.”
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports