The Shenendehowa boys soccer team may have won the state class AA title last year, but in head coach Mike Campisi's eyes, this year's Plainsmen are not the defending champions.
We're not defending the state championship. If I had the same team back if it were like the pros " then I would, but this is a completely different group. What we did last year has nothing to do with these kids," Campisi said.
Several players are back from last year's team, but there are some significant holes that have to be filled, especially on defense. Still, Shen being Shen, there are some talented young players ready to take over.
"We've just got to get comfortable with each other," said senior tri-captain Tyler Izykowski. "We don't expect " and coach doesn't expect " everything to just come together and be perfect from the beginning. It's never going to be, so we have to get used to the style of play and get used to the new guys who aren't used to how we play."
Campisi gave his team a test drive last weekend with non-league home games against Section III power Liverpool and Section IX champion Pine Bush. The Plainsmen controlled the action in both games, but only came away with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool and a scoreless tie with Pine Bush.
"You always like to see more (scoring)," said Campisi following last Saturday's game against Liverpool. "We have to work offensively to create more opportunities. We had excellent possession, but we have to work on combinations to get us free in the box to get shots off."
Izykowski, junior T.J. Popolizio and sophomore Chris Curley will likely be the catalysts for Shen's offense this season. The three veterans were key contributors last year " along with Matt Pentkowski, who graduated in June. Senior tri-captain John Roche, senior Pat Neilley and junior Andrew Tambasco are also part of the midfield corps.