Competing in Nassau Class AA boys’ soccer for the first time in seven years, Valley Stream Central got through its first five matches unscathed in the loss column, registering a pair of wins and three draws.
“It’s our first time in AA in quite a while, but so far, so good,” said coach Billy Miller, who in the spring guided the Eagles to the Class A playoffs and a wild 6-5 opening-round victory over Lawrence. “We had a senior-laden team in the spring; a large group we had for three years, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he added.
Miller attributed the successful start to the offseason workout routine and leadership of senior captains Allan Conway, Luke Scaragella, Jonathan Matthews and Logan Barbot. “We had a strong summer and preseason that’s carried over,” Miller explained. “These guys want to work hard and push each other and win.”
Conway and Scarangella are key parts of a defense that includes juniors Jean Daryl Derineau and Nasir Bodden. “Everything goes through Allan at center-back,” Miller said. “We were in need of a defender last season and he fit right in. He plays with an edge. He’s all determination and heart.” The coach credited Scarangella with organizing offseason drills and bringing a take-charge attitude.
In goal, third-year starting keeper Jonas Mata has played exceptionally well so far, Miller noted. “He became a lot more comfortable last season but unfortunately got hurt and missed about half of the games,” Miller said. “He’s single-handedly keeping us in games with incredible saves. He’s strong in the air and showing a lot of confidence.”
Although Mata is still looking for his first shutout this fall, the Eagles limited four of their first five opponents to one goal. The first two instances resulted in 3-1 victories over Plainview-JFK and Massapequa. Junior Fortune Uzo and Matthews found the back of the net in both wins and lead the team in scoring with 5 and 3 goals, respectively.
“Most of our attack runs through Fortune,” Miller said. “He puts himself in great spots when he’s without the ball. He and Jonathan both have dangerous speed and we move them around between forward and midfield.”
Uzo led Central in goals last season with 10. Matthews came on strong in the playoffs with two goals against Lawrence and one versus Carey and used the big finish as a springboard, Miller said.
At center-midfield, Barbot helps the Eagles control the pace of games and win battles of 50-50 balls. He’s an important distributor in the transition offense and scored his second goal of the campaign in a 1-1 draw with East Meadow on Sept. 21. Up from JV, juniors Tyler Tessoriere, Caiden Marshall and Emmanuel Kasiotis have stepped up to bolster the midfield.
The top 8 finishers in the 15-team conference, plus any with at least a .500 record, will qualify for the playoffs.
“We still have a lot of games to go,” Miller said. “I think the kids understand what our team is capable of. We just have to stay focused.”