FOOTBALL: First, the good news. The sophomore and junior classes at Rye Country Day are two of the largest and most talented football-playing cohorts in school history.
By Melanie Cane and Mitch Silver
First, the good news. The sophomore and junior classes at Rye Country Day are two of the largest and most talented football-playing cohorts in school history. And now for the bad: the three seniors are terrific, but that’s all there are. Just the three of them.
Veteran Coach John Calandros isn’t complaining. “We lost our entire starting backfield from 2013. That’s 1,800 yards we’ll have to replace. And our senior class is one of the smallest ever in terms of football. On the other hand, because we only have the three back, it means our underclassman got a lot of playing time last year. So they’re more experienced than sophomores and juniors usually are.”
The 2013 version of the Wildcats went 4-3 overall, the highlight being a Homecoming Weekend upset of powerhouse Hamden Hall. Injuries to key players helped keep the team out of the post-season. This year? “Let’s start with the seniors,” the coach said. “The strength and speed of Rick Wallace are going to serve us well on the line — both sides. Brian DiSanto started as a sophomore, so he has varsity games under his belt. And our captain, Eli Rattner, is really our ‘control room’ out there. He makes the reads and calls the plays on defense.”
“At quarterback we’re going to have a shootout until someone wins the job. One player back there, though, is pretty definite: junior Ryan Wolitzer has been playing since freshman year at running back and safety. He’s been a big contributor, and this year he could be the guy who holds a young backfield together.”
The coaching staff, too, has a new face: Baseball Co-Coach Michael Pollack will assist the man he once played for at Horace Mann. Coach Calandros said, “One of our real strengths is our coaching staff. My assistants are all very strong … Charles Ogbonna and I have been together for over 20 years. I’m happy to have Michael join the group.”
In a year when coaching young talent may make all the difference, Rye Country Day travels to Woodlands High School for a scrimmage September 6 before hosting Our Lady of Lourdes in the opener the following week.
Last season, the Wildcats won their third consecutive NYSAIS championship title, and the freshman players who have been part of the three-peat are seniors. Among them are Captains Sophie Beshar, Emily Duarte, Yana Lee, and Zoe Verni.
Only one player graduated from last year’s team, which leaves 20 returning players, including 11 seniors. Coach Georgette Summers said, “I have a phenomenal group of seniors. This team is focused, talented, inclusive, and dedicated. I am looking forward to seeing what they can do as a team this season.”
The goal for this veteran team is to give the seniors their best season ever and to win the FAA and NYSAIS titles. They have two scrimmages before their first game September 9 at Greens Farms Academy.
The 2013 Rye Country Day boys’ soccer team was one of the most outstanding in the school’s storied history. A 15-4-1 season culminated in a Fairchester Athletic Association title win over Greens Farms Academy, 3-1.
Okay, now what do you do for an encore, Coach Cristiano Pereira? Want to win another FAA crown? You’ll have to do it without your record-breaking striker, Paul Leake. Mike Farber, your outstanding keeper, he’s gone, too, to graduation. As are Billy Sobel and Kevin Collado, the other two scorers in the title win.
“I like our chances,” the coach told us recently. “Yes, we lost starters to graduation. When doesn’t that happen? But we have good athletes here, with a good work ethic. We want to play on the front foot, bringing the play to the other team. If we’re in the game late, I’m confident we’ll find a way to win.”
A lot of that confidence comes from what looks to be a strong defense. Senior captains Ryan Wilk and Luke Cappellano will set up shop on the back line, lending strong support to fellow senior Blake Beber in goal. Beber was Farber’s understudy a year ago. “Good hands, good head, good goalie,” is how Pereira describes him.
Captain and three-year varsity vet John Faxon is being counted on to put the ball in the other team’s net, as are juniors Jared Yanis and David Towley. Coach Pereira also made sure to point out senior Leo Gomez and his sophomore brother, Felipe, up from the junior varsity. “Austin Weber and Raul Quintero are going to play important minutes, as well. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see a freshman, Cole Price, out there too.”
Will this year’s squad make go all the way? First, they’ll have to scrimmage New Canaan High and Riverdale before meeting league rival King at home September 12.
The Wildcats have been steadily improving every year and just missed going to the NYAISA championship by one game last year, finishing with a 14-1-3 record.
This year’s team only has two open spots left by graduating seniors, but one of the graduates, Stephanie Sabatini, was the top scorer in the league, which makes her shoes hard to fill.
The team’s goals this year are to get off to a strong start and reach all the three finals — NYAISA, FAA, and New England.
When asked for the names of players to watch, Coach Alin Andrei replied, “I would like to mention all the players, as they must step up and be a very organized group.” He went on to single out the four senior captains: Sophie Brown, Sarah Brodwolf, Julia Massaro and Francesca Ventura; juniors Samantha Kost, Zoe Kost, Elizabeth Mastoloni, and Charlotte Boehning; and sophomore Taylor Regan. He is hoping to find some incoming freshman talent as well.
Their first game is September 8 at home against Hackley.