HUNTINGTON STATION, New York, November 6
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
1996 – That year marks the last time Walt Whitman High School played in a Suffolk County boys soccer championship game. Now, on Friday, the boys will once again play for it all – and it’s eerily similar to the ’96 run.
“The guys know that they work extremely hard and they know that nothing is going to come easy for us,” Wildcats Head Coach John DiGiacomo said in the days after No. 4 Whitman (15-3-1) shocked No. 1 Brentwood (16-2-1) in overtime, 2-1.
The upset for the Wildcats came on Monday in the county semifinal on Brentwood’s field. Michael Lorello, a junior midfielder, was credited with the game-winner for Whitman on a miscue by the Brentwood defense that sent Lorello’s free kick into the back of the net. Fabrizio Chamorro opened up the scoring for Whitman in the second half to tie the score 1-1. Goalkeeper Austin Salas made 6 saves in the win.
Now, the Wildcats are preparing for a county championship game against No. 2 Commack (17-1-1) – the same school they faced in the ’96 game.
But the similarities don’t end there.
Brian Karcz – then a Whitman player, now the team’s assistant coach – played in that game and scored a hat trick that not only won the Wildcats a championship, 4-3, but also enshrined Karcz as the school’s all-time leading single-season scorer (23).
Heading into Friday’s game – to be played at Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley at 6:30 p.m. – Wildcats junior Witman Hernandez is just one goal shy of meeting Karcz’ record; he has 22 goals in 2014. Through the playoffs, Hernandez has 5 goals in three games.
“We’ve been able to win games without him scoring; we beat Brentwood without him scoring,” DiGiacomo said. “But if he’s on the scoreboard it means we’re doing good things.”
Hernandez may very well be an x-factor for Whitman heading into Friday’s game against Commack. DiGiacomo, though, said most of the game will require a team effort from the Wildcats, one in which they need to “dictate how the game will be played.”
“They’re an extremely good, well-coached team,” he said of the Cougars. “But we need to play our game, 110 percent; we need to possess the ball and be efficient in our transitions into counterattacks.”
Another factor could be Whitman’s supporters, which were out in full strength for Monday’s win.
“To think that a silly game can draw so much support is exciting – not so much for me, but for the boys,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s exciting to have the community rally around [the team]… and I hope it continues.”
X-factors, strategies and crowd support aside, DiGiacomo said, the coaching staff’s most important task is making sure the Wildcats are relaxed.
“We have to tell them, ‘Guys, just have fun,’” he said. “Soccer is supposed to be fun, and win or lose we’re extremely proud of the point at which they’re at.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, November 6, 2014; A42)