Gates Chili boys soccer ready to win in 2010 | Schools
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It seems like so long ago that the Gates Chili boys soccer team made its spectacular run to the Section 5 Class AAA championship game. So much has transpired over the nine months since the Spartans went from a No. 7 seed, to upset specialists, to now one of the favorites to claim the 2010 Class AAA crown.
Yet here they are, after nearly losing one of their key players in a horrific car accident in May, more motivated and focused than ever and ready to bring home the school’s first boys soccer championship since 2003— when they won the state title.
“It’s a little different being the hunted, but I think that we’re prepared for it,” head coach Jason Picardo said. “I think that anything short of a Section 5 title will be a disappointment.”
Some of the motivation the club has this season will be derived from its unexpected upset of second-seeded Churchville-Chili in the semifinals of last year’s sectionals and ensuing loss to Fairport in the championship game. Still more will be acquired from fallen teammate Caleb Bryant, the team’s featured defensive player in 2009, who was seriously injured in a car accident in May.
Though he will not be able to play his senior year, Bryant will be around the team in the fall providing inspiration from the sideline.
“I think he’s going to be a big part of the team,” Picardo said. “This season is certainly going to be dedicated to Caleb and we’re going to be honoring him with a plaque with all the captain’s names on it. I’ve also asked Paul to wear his No. 10 and every captain from here on will wear that number at Gates Chili.”
The Paul he referred to is Paul Altobelli, a senior offensive midfielder who has been the offensive catalyst for the Spartans for four years. He led the team in goals, six, and assists, three, last season and was one of the main reasons GC was able to fight its way into the AAA playoffs.
Picardo believes that Altobelli has gotten even more explosive in club play leading up to the varsity training camp and could be one of the best offensive players on the Monroe County pitch. He spent the spring and summer playing on not one, but two teams and having captain’s practices a few times a week where he and his teammates would run hills and take touches on the ball.
“I can’t explain how excited I am for my senior year,” Altobelli said. “Last year was definitely a good omen for this season and we want to get back to sectionals and take it as far as we can. I think if everybody commits and gets as pumped as we were last year, we can win it all.”
He will be joined in the front by senior striker Nick Cafarelli, who scored the lone goal in GC’s 1-0 win over Churchville in the semis. Cafarelli’s rise exemplified Gates Chili’s late run, he narrowly made the team after tryouts last fall, but his speed and aerial ability make him a dangerous player for the Spartans.
Cafarelli finished with three goals and an assist last season, but has shown a tendency to show up big in big games. His skills have also been sharpened this offseason as he played club ball with Altobelli on the Gates Metros this summer.
“I liked being the underdog last year, but we just have to come out and play our game,” Cafarelli said. “Last offseason I didn’t go to the offseason stuff and coach didn’t get a good look at me, but I’ve been much more motivated and going to all the offseason practices this summer.
“We can’t win games 1-0 anymore, we’re going to have to put some balls in the back of the net.”
The reason GC probably won’t be able to win low-scoring affairs is because of the departure of senior goalie Dan Bucklaew. Though his replacement is still undecided, GC does have two defensive maestros back that could keep the ball away from the net.
Senior Jack Woons, an outside back, is a player that Picardo feels could be a top 10 defensive player this season and sweeper Jared Rideout will be there to clean up any messes left by Spartan backs.
Another player who Picardo feels has flown under the radar is senior middie Joey Plummer. Though he is less flashy than his counterpart Altobelli, Plummer has been on the varsity team just as long because of his superior technical abilities and distribution of the ball.
“It’s very important to start out hot because that will set the tone,” Plummer said. “If we win early it will motivate us and then we’ll be able to carry momentum from those tough wins through the season.”
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