Long Beach boys’ soccer coach Leo Palacio keeps reminding his players how important it is and also how challenging it’ll be to pick up where they left off a year ago.
“We had a magical season,” Palacio said of the Marines’ run to a conference championship and the Nassau Class AA semifinals. “It was one to remember and we don’t want it to be another 20 years before we have that kind of success again,” he added. “The powerhouses in the county are still the powerhouses, but we want to continue to make progress.”
Palacio said he was encouraged by a steady turnout of approximately 30 kids for workouts and pick-up games during the winter, spring and summer. “These guys are serious about soccer,” he said. “We know in this conference, we can’t put our heads down. We have to play organized and disciplined just like we did last year.
“With the opponents we face early, we’ll see where we are right away,” he added.
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. Long Beach (9-3-1 overall in 2017) will compete in AA-2 along with Westbury, East Meadow, Plainview, Port Washington, Baldwin and Hicksville and face each opponent twice.
The Marines return a little more than half of last year’s roster, including All-County selections Dillon Woods and Alex Camas. Woods, the go-to guy on offense, finished fourth in Nassau in scoring as a junior with 15 goals to go along with 7 assists. Camas is a major part of the defense at sweeper.
“Dillon is a scoring machine,” Palacio said. “He can beat anybody one-on-one and he’s been working on improving his left foot. Last year we missed him for a couple of games and we were a different team. He’s that dynamic.”
Camas, also a senior, has the vision and playmaking ability of a midfielder, Palacio said, but is too valuable to remove from the back. “He has a lot of skill and reads the game really well,” Palacio said. “He never just kicks the ball out of the zone. He gets us going in transition.”
Senior Robert Cody will get the toughest defensive assignment in front on new goalkeeper Jake Ignatow, a senior up from JV. Cody brings “exceptional marking ability,” said Palacio, who also has seniors Brett Weiner and John Aebly with starting experience on defense.
Juniors Kerry Saravia and Bryan Mizhirumbay are returning All-Conference midfielders who cover a lot of ground and can chip in offensively. “They both strike the ball with power and see the field well,” said Palacio, who also plans to use junior Connor Haag in the midfield. Up front with Woods, junior Emerson Vasquez is a converted defensive midfielder who worked as hard as anyone during the offseason according to Palacio.