The full effects of COVID-19 has caused all sports and SUNYAC conference title runs to be put in the back seat. With safety as the number one priority for student athletes, we haven’t seen any league games or a regular collegiate schedule.
The men’s soccer team, one of the main fall sports teams affected by this predicament, still wanted to keep a competitive edge going into a potential 2021-2022 season, and that is why during this Fall semester they had their own little tournament amongst each other.
The team was allowed to start practicing officially on Sept. 15, where the team participated in small conditioning drills and basic individual practice. According to Head Coach Kyle Clancy, there was no real engagement with the players for a month and a half.
In the final month of the soccer team’s practice, Coach Clancy and his assistants thought of the idea to have a small tournament style of play. Once it was approved by the Athletic board at New Paltz it was in full gear moving forward.
“This final month I wanted them to be competitive and have something to play for and have fun, it was a reward for them, and it was a lot of fun to see them play and put in the hard work they have been doing all semester,” Coach Clancy said.
This opportunity brought on by the coaching staff allowed for the players to get at least some level of a competitive college atmosphere. Seeing that you have these guys come into practice every day and dedicate themselves to the sport they love, shows how far they are willing to push themselves to get better.
“I think it was a great idea by the coach, and it made us want to compete against each other and it was great,” said fourth-year forward Carlos Cuellar. “I think I improved my defensive skills during the tournament, I was reading the plays real well, what I saw from the practices I put in the real games. We took the games seriously, everybody wanted to win it. This was a very good opportunity for our freshman to at least get a feel of the college level of soccer, and it allowed our senior players to end on a good note.”
The tournament was set up by doing teams of four, with one team versus another for two sets of four games. Each set is against one particular team and the two teams facing each other play their set by doing four consecutive games in row, according to Clancy.
There were three days of league games over two weeks. Each day, all five teams played eight games lasting four minutes long. Once all those games were tallied, teams were seeded from first to fifth.
The final day of play was strictly playoffs; the games were set for 13 minutes total with six minute halves. The fifth seed played the fourth seed for the play in game, and from there was the semifinals and the championship.
The matchups were Leeds (fifth) against Leicester (fourth). Leicester won and they had advanced to face off against the Wolverhampton club (first). With Wolverhampton winning the match, they had advanced to the championship. On the other side of the bracket was the Nottingham Forest club (second) against the All-blacks (third). Ultimately, the Wolverhampton club had bested Nottingham Forest in the championship.
“The championship game was highly competitive,” said second-year goalkeeper Andrea Bentoglio. “I feel like overall as a team member I bring a whole different level of commitment since I am a goalkeeper. We had to play three hours of high level of competition during the 4 v4 league every day, I wanted to try my hardest and bring the best impact I can for my teammates.”
As this tournament style of play allowed the soccer team to get a chance to be competitive amongst each other and try to be champions in their two week session, it allowed them clarity for moving forward as a team and individually as players.
“Next year we are looking real good. We have a lot of skilled freshmen, just putting in their effort and I think it is a really good sign for things to come,” said third-year forward James Maltes.
“I have to do better in terms of getting fitness level ready and compete against these other schools and practice on my own time, and get the little things down so I can benefit the team as well,” Bentoglio said.
For the spring, Coach Clancy mentioned that he hopes to bring this tournament style of play back for his players to enjoy and bring that same love and intensity into a possible fall 2021-2022 soccer season.
We will all have to wait and watch what these guys can do moving forward as their only goal is to be the best team they can be.