Once again, the East Hampton boys soccer team is considered a front-runner to win a county title.
The Bonackers, who were upset in the Class B semifinals by Elwood/John Glenn in a game that went to penalty kicks last year, lost only four key starters and are returning most of their talented players to the field this season. Seniors Nick West (All-State, League VI Player of the Year) and Esteban Valverde (All-League) should be two of the top players in the county, and will anchor what should be a very strong midfield unit for East Hampton. West’s versatility and Valverde’s pure skill should be a deadly combination for opponents.
“Nick is one of our best players, and we have total confidence in him,” head coach Rich King said. “If we put him in more of an offensive role, he’ll score goals, and if we put him in a defensive role, he’ll defend for us. He’ll do anything we ask of him, and he’ll be one of our leaders on and off the field.
“Esteban is probably the most talented player on our team,” King continued. “We’re going to count on him to score some goals for us.”
West has committed to play at Messiah College next year, where his brother, Brandon, was the starting goalie on two NCAA Division III National Championship teams. West and Valverde are two of a group of five seniors who have been on the varsity since they were freshmen, including goalie Nick Tulp (All-County), and defenders Bryan Oreamuno (All-League) and Christian Barrientos.
Tulp tied for the lead in shutouts in Suffolk County last year, and will be a solid netminder for the Bonackers.
“He is capable of being a dominant goalie,” King said. “He’s proved he’s one of the best goalies in Suffolk, and if he plays the way he’s capable of playing, he’ll prove that again.”
Oreamuno was an All-League defender last year and will provide stability on the back line, along with Barrientos.
The five players will be the captains of the team this year.
After those five players, King said, he has about seven or eight players who will fight for the remaining starting spots. Camilo Godoy, a senior, is an experienced returning starter in the midfield who will also be a likely starter.
East Hampton lost a talented scorer in Donte Donegal, an All-Conference player last year, and also said good-bye to All-Conference defender Denis Espana. Midfielder Nick Quiroz and defender Juan Patino were key starting players who graduated as well.
King said his team might “attack differently” after losing Donegal, a pure striker, but he said he doesn’t think it will hamper his team’s ability to score.
“Our strength will be more in the midfield than the forward position, which is fine,” he said. “I think we’ll be just as effective.”
King expects Miller Place and Glenn to give his team the best run for its money in League VI, and he said those teams, along with Sayville and Comsewogue, from League V, should also be contenders for the county title. Sayville won the county crown last year, while Comsewogue is back in Class A after playing in Class AA the last few years and has a returning All-State player in James Thristino, who scored 28 goals last season.
East Hampton will start the season with a non-league home game against Mattituck on Tuesday, September 9, at 4:30 p.m. and will open the League VI season at home against Bayport/Blue Point on September 11 at 4:30 p.m.
The Lady Bonackers will have a new look this year, as they lost 16 seniors to graduation, including seven starters. All-Conference midfielder/forward Amanda Seekamp, All-League forward Rachel Harty, center midfielder Ashley Rojas, and defender Shannon Lamprecht are the biggest losses. But the good news is that East Hampton has a more manageable schedule in terms of competition, as the developmental League VIII—which existed in the past few years for teams that were still developing their programs—has ceased to exist, and some of the teams from that league have moved into League VI. East Hampton should be competitive with former League VIII teams Hampton Bays and Southampton, while both Elwood/John Glenn and Center Moriches have new coaches, and Mount Sinai graduated a lot of seniors. Head coach Mike Vitulli expects Bayport/Blue Point and Shoreham/Wading River to be the dominant teams in the league.
“We’re hoping to be better than last year,” Vitulli said, referencing his team’s one-win season last year. “Last year, we played well in a lot of games, but didn’t get the results we wanted. We’re shooting to be .500.”
Vitulli expects seniors Talia Raebeck and Sophie Spencer to lead the team on defense, while juniors Wylee Musnicki, Manuela Hurtado and Freddi Persico will lead the midfield unit. Lisseth Rodriguez, a sophomore, will be a key player on the forward line, while Cecelia Blowe will likely start in goal.
East Hampton will start the season at home on Saturday, September 6, with a non-league game against Pierson at 10 a.m., and will open the League VI season at home against Glenn on September 10 at 4:30 p.m.