With a lineup loaded with seniors, this could be a very good season for the Schalmont boys’ soccer team.
“You always want to play as long as possible,” said center midfielder Gino Rossi after the host Sabres dispatched Schenectady, 4-1, Friday night in the first round of the season-opening Capital Cup. “It’s always a goal. It’s the final season for most of this team, so we’d like to see how far we can go.”
Sophomore Cameron LaVallee had three goals, and goalkeeper Tyler Smith stopped a penalty kick that could have given the Patriots a 2-1 lead midway through the first half as the Sabres began what they hope will be a better season than last year’s 12-4-1 effort that ended with a 2-1 loss to Greenville in the Class B quarterfinals.
Schalmont will meet reigning Big 10 and Class A champion Troy in tonight’s 7 p.m final. The Flying Horses edged Scotia-Glenville, 1-0, in the other first-round game, getting a goal late in the first half from A.J. Boyd.
Smith’s PK stop on returning Big 10 first-team all-star Jhonny Rojas gave his team a needed spark, and deflated Schenectady, which had answered LaVallee’s first goal with one from Justin Estmerea.
“I basically held my ground,” said Smith of the PK. “It did give us a lift.”
“That’s the type of thing that wins games,” said Rossi.
“That gave us a big lift,” said central defender Joe Wignot, one of Schalmont’s three captains, along with Rossi and Smith. “That was a big spot in the game. They had just tied it up.”
From the other bench, Schenectady coach Terry Sloan saw his team deflate a little, as the Patriots conceded a score from Aiden Frank and LaVallee’s second before the end of the half.
“We were right it the game
until that penalty kick,” he said. “We have the capability to be dangerous up front, but we have to find ways to get the ball up to them.
“It’s a matter of them finding out what their roles are.”
That isn’t a problem for the Sabres, with a dozen seniors on the 16-man team, seven of them starting in the opener.
“It’s a 16-man effort. Every player on this team will contribute,” said Rossi, who cited Frank’s goal. “Aiden got his first goal. Cameron got three goals. That’s how we need to play.”
“I think we’re ahead of where we were at this point last season,” said Smith, recalling his team’s 5-1 loss to Troy in the 2012 season-opener. “We played well tonight.”
With Rossi directing the offense from his position in the middle of the field, and Wignot at the center of the four-man back line, Schalmont is more than capable of playing possession soccer, or launching a quick counter.
“That’s been our style,” said Rossi, who recently decided to play collegiately at Virginia Tech. “We like to keep possession, move the ball and get people involved in the game.”
A.J. Jasenski and right back Greg Musk give Wignot two classmates to team with in front of Smith, with Frank on the left flank.
“Everyone knows what their role is, and we’re working well together,” said Wignot.
Scotia-Glenville coach Chris Bailey knows his team won’t be able to match the offensive production of a year ago, with Eric Denny, Country Moran and Dennis Turner graduated. The Tartans’ offense will run through sophomore Owen Fingar.
“There’s just no way we’re going to be as strong up top as we were last year,” said Bailey. “Those three were all fast, and could put the ball in the net.
“Right now, we’re trying to get different people used to playing together, and playing through and with Owen.”
Senior goalkeeper Adam Ashcroft will play a big role in whatever success the Tartans have this fall.
“He’s a very intelligent player,” said Bailey. “He sees the game, and is able to communicate to his teammates in the right way.
“And they respect him, and listen to what he says. He’s going to be an important player for us this season.”