Baldwin will need to overcome its youth to make a run at the Nassau Class AA boys’ soccer playoffs a year after sneaking in as the No. 12 seed with a senior-laden club.
“I’ve been with the program for 12 years and this is the youngest group we’ve had,” second-year coach Chris Soupios said. “We had 13 seniors last year and now we’re at four seniors and four juniors. It’s an incredibly young team and it’s about getting everyone comfortable with each other and growing every week.”
The Bruins went 4-5-1 during the regular season in 2017 and were blanked in a first-round playoff game, falling by two goals at Westbury. Only a few return with varsity starting experience. “We had ups and downs last year,” Soupios explained. “I liked the way we looked early but then we got slammed with injuries. We had a big win against Hicksville that we hoped would propel us to bigger things, but we fell short of the expectations we had for ourselves.”
With enrollment in the county dropping for a handful of school districts, the Class AA portion is down to 14. That led to a new setup of two conferences of seven teams apiece with the top four in each, along with any team with at least a .500 conference record, advancing to the playoffs. Baldwin will compete in AA-2 along with Westbury, East Meadow, Plainview, Port Washington, Long Beach and Hicksville and face each opponent twice.
“Everyone else probably has low expectations for us,” Soupios explained. “We’re looking to surprise. We want to get better every day and hit that high note towards the end.”
Some of the Bruins with starting experience at the varsity level include seniors Sean Quane and Ismael Elmangad and junior Jahn Padilla. Quane is being counted on to help lead the way offensively, while Elmangad and Padilla will look to keep opponents off the scoreboard.
Quane is an attacking center-midfielder who was hampered by an ankle injury last summer and took some time to get up to speed. He’s 6-foot plus and entering his third varsity campaign. “He has incredible touch on the ball and ideally he’ll lead us in assists, but he also has a powerful shot,” Soupios said.
The coach said Elmangad has come a long way since his freshman year, thanks in large part to good old-fashioned hard work. “He’s as dedicated as any kid I’ve coached,” Soupios said. Padilla started almost every game in 2017 and is expected to assume more of a leadership role. He’s a physical presence as a defensive-minded center-middie.
Junior Sean Campbell and sophomore Jelani Dowe are slated to start as center backs after strong JV showings. They’ll lead the effort in front of junior goalkeeper Michael Paray, who has two varsity shutouts to his credit in spot duty. “He’s a tremendous athlete with quick reflexes,” Soupios said of Paray.
Offensively, the plan is for senior Evan Batsford and sophomore Daniel Ikechuwa to generate pressure and find the back of the net.