When asked about expectations in the preseason, most high school coaches like to speak in generalities, invoking the one-game-at-a-time mantra that has become a cliche.
That’s not the case for the East Hampton boys soccer team this year.
The Bonackers have one thing on their mind—winning a state championship—and they’re not afraid to admit it.
It’s a lofty yet realistic goal for the team, which has won back-to-back Suffolk County Class A championships, and lost only two starters from last year’s team. With a strong group of veteran players returning, the third time could certainly be a charm for East Hampton, which lost in the Long Island Championship game last season for the second time in a row to Jericho, the two-time defending state champion. Jericho lost 15 seniors from its championship team last year.
East Hampton head coach Rich King said earlier this week that he wasn’t going to worry about Jericho, or any other school in Nassau County for that matter, any time soon. He said his team has a number of goals it wants to accomplish, but admitted that a state title would be the ultimate achievement.
“The kids want to win a state championship,” he said. “Obviously, it’s one goal at a time. So our first goal is to win the league, then we’d like to repeat again as Suffolk champs, and then we want to win the Long Island Championship. We’ve been disappointed two years in a row in that game, so that’s their goal. But ultimately they want to win a state championship. That’s our team goal and we’re not going to shy away from it. We’ll need some luck and we’ll need to stay healthy, but we certainly have the ability to do that.”
East Hampton lost only four seniors last year, two of whom were starters. Center midfielder J.C. Barrientos, an All-County player, is now playing at SUNY-Cobleskill. All-League defender Alex Serna graduated as well. But the Bonackers should have no problem replacing what Barrientos and Serna brought to the field.
The defense will be anchored by returning junior goalie Nick Tulp, an All-League player last year.
“He solidifies everything for us,” King said of Tulp. “Anytime you can return a goalie from a county championship team, you feel very comfortable.”
Leading the defense with Tulp will be returning players Denis Espana, a senior who earned All-Conference honors last year, and junior Brian Oreamuno, who came off the bench last season. King said that four or five other players are currently competing to fill the remaining two starting positions on defense.
The midfield will be anchored by three talented juniors—Nick West, Esteban Valverde and Christian Barrientos. West was an All-Conference player last year and scored both of East Hampton’s goals in its county championship win over Elwood/John Glenn. Valverde scored 11 goals for the team last year and King said he is expecting a “huge” year from him. Barrientos, J.C.’s younger brother, missed the second half of last year with an injury, which King said was a big loss at the time. King believes those three players will provide plenty of stability and talent in the midfield.
On attack, East Hampton returns its leading scorer in senior Donte Donegal, who scored 13 goals last season and was an All-Conference pick.
King said that he and assistant coach Don McGovern have a “good problem” on their hands, thanks to the depth of this year’s team.
“We have a lot of competition at a lot of spots,” King said. “We’re looking at 10 to 12 guys to fill four [starting] spots. I would expect that early on in the season we’ll probably rotate through those kids to see who really takes hold. We definitely don’t have a set starting 11 that we’ll go with yet.”
East Hampton is the preseason pick to defend the League VI title, but King said he expects Elwood/John Glenn to give his team a run for its money again. King added that Miller Place and Shoreham/Wading River should be strong as well. Amityville, Mount Sinai, and Bayport/Blue Point round out the league. Harborfields, Islip, Westhampton, Rocky Point and Sayville are the other Class A teams in the county, but they compete in League V, meaning the Bonackers won’t face them during the regular season but could potentially see them in the playoffs. Eastport South Manor, the team East Hampton beat in the semifinals last year, has moved into Class AA, as has Comsewogue. King said he believes Sayville should be a tough team as well, but feels the rest of the Class A teams from League V are probably evenly matched.
Overall, King, in his fourth year as head coach and seventh year with the program, is optimistic about the coming season and is happy with the progress of the program in general. The varsity is carrying 28 players, a number it whittled down to after making cuts. The junior varsity, led by Steve Tseperkas, had to make cuts as well and is carrying 25 players. The junior high team also has 25 players, while Springs and Montauk also have junior high teams.
“The program is really healthy right now,” King said. “This will be a big year for our guys. These guys are used to winning a lot of games and a couple of championships. Now they’re hungry for a state championship.”
East Hampton will open the season with a non-league game at Southampton on Saturday, September 7, at 7 p.m. and will visit defending Suffolk County and Long Island Class B champion Mattituck for another non-league game on Monday, September 9, at 4:30 p.m. The Bonackers will open the league season at Elwood/John Glenn on Thursday, September 12, at 4:30 p.m. East Hampton will visit Jericho for a non-league game on Saturday, September 28, at 11 a.m.
The East Hampton girls soccer team is looking to erase the memory of what was a tough season last year. In 2012, the Lady Bonackers won just two games and had one tie, and were outmatched by powerhouse programs like Sayville and Islip. This year, the Lady Bonackers are back in League VI, and while it won’t be easy to get into the middle of the pack, they won’t be facing as much of an uphill battle as they did last year.
East Hampton will be a senior-laden team this year, with 14 players returning for their final seasons. Senior Amanda Seekamp, a four-year varsity player, is a returning All-Conference pick who will compete at the forward and midfield positions. Head coach Mike Vitulli said he is also expecting big things from Rachel Harty, a senior forward/midfielder. Shannon Lamprecht, another four-year varsity player, will anchor the team on defense, along with sweeper Erika Gomez, also a senior. Sophomore Wylee Musnicki returns to the team and will be a key player as well. Vitulli said the goalie position is up in the air, as he has three players currently battling for the starting spot.
Overall, Vitulli expects this season to be more successful than last year, thanks to the move back to League VI and the return of plenty of senior leadership.
“Our goal is to be around .500,” he said. “We’re hoping that with some leadership and experience we can improve on our record from last year.”
Vitulli said he expects Shoreham/Wading River, Bayport/Blue Point and Miller Place to be the top teams in the league. Mount Sinai, Elwood/John Glenn and Center Moriches round out the league.
East Hampton will open the season with a non-league home game against Pierson on Monday, September 9, at 4 p.m. and will host Southampton in another non-league game on Friday, September 13, at 4 p.m. The Lady Bonackers will kick off the league season at home against Center Moriches on September 16 at 4:30 p.m. East Hampton will also face Hampton Bays and Mercy in non-league games later in the season.