After going 8-10-1, 11-8-1, and winning only one game in the SUNYAC Tournament in his first two seasons as the Men’s Soccer Head Coach, Gene Ventriglia is looking to see a major improvement from his team in his third-year.
The Hawks are returning almost a full roster, excluding the four fourth-year players who were lost to graduation. With this in mind, Ventriglia sees no reason why his team can’t be one of the best teams in the SUNYAC.
“We’re returning several players from last year, so we expect to be a pretty good team,” Ventriglia said.
Chosen to lead the team this season as co-captains are third-year midfielder Alec Johnson and third-year defender Brian Spina. Ventriglia feels his team is in good hands with them.
“I think they’re going to hold them together,” Ventriglia said. “Alec and Brian are two of the most committed kids you’ll ever find.”
Second-year forward and midfielder Joe Hughes echoed his coach’s feelings on the team’s co-captains.
“They’re the best,” Hughes said. “They’re really holding the team down.”
One major focus the coaching staff is emphasizing during practice this year is conditioning, Spina said.
“This year, more than my first two years, we’re really focusing on conditioning during practice,” Spina said. “Coach Jimmy [Ventriglia] and Jamal [Lis-Simmons] handle the conditioning parts, while Gene handles the tactical aspects of the game.”
The biggest decision Ventriglia will have to make is who will get minutes in goal between third-years Andres Montoya and Steven Domino. Last year the two shared time and Ventrgilia said he’s going with the same strategy again this year.
“Last year early on we split them,” Ventriglia said. “Right now they’re neck and neck, each has something that the other one doesn’t have. If you put them together we’ve got a great keeper.”
Ventriglia said he is concerned with whether or not the team will have enough scoring. Last season the Hawks averaged 1.65 goals scored per game and they are looking to improve this season, while also replacing their three leading goal scorers from last year.
“The question is always, ‘Are we going to have enough scoring?’” Ventriglia said. “We graduated our leading scorer [from last season], who tied for the lead in the conference last year. I think we won’t have a big scorer, but we’ll have a good number of players who will score some goals.”
Looking to step-up for the Hawks in the scoring department is Hughes, the team’s leading returning goal scorer. Right now he’s struggling with a shin injury, but once he’s healthy, he’s looking to make a major impact to help his team, he said.
“I definitely have a more comfortable feeling this year, I had more nerves last year,” Hughes said. “I just want to help out the team as much as I can.”
Spina is focused on winning the SUNYAC championship this season, but he’s just as focused on continuing to build the friendships he has with his teammates.
“I want to continue to form strong relationships with my teammates on and off of the field,” Spina said. “The guys on the team are my best friends.”
A major reason that the players on the team are best friends field is because of a team trip they took to Italy last spring.
“That trip brought us together,” Hughes said. “It made us a family, going to see all those sites with the whole team. There’s nothing like it.”
Overall, Ventriglia is happy with the team he has this season and his goal for them is to make it to the SUNYAC Championship game, he said.
“Our goal is to get to the championship game, which is another step,” Ventriglia said. “I think it’s going to be a good year. I’m not usually this optimistic.”
Hughes has one goal on his mind for the team this season, he said.
“We want to win the SUNYAC,” Hughes said. “I think we have the squad to do it.”
The Hawks opened their season with a 3-1 loss to Vassar College in a hard-fought game. They’ll look to rebound from the loss in the Gary Smith Invitational that will take place this weekend at St. Josephs’s College (LI).