As Hewlett rebuilds following a first-round exit in last year’s Nassau boys’ soccer Class A playoffs, Lawrence returned eight starters from a disappointing non-playoff campaign.
The neighboring districts are now conference rivals in some sports under the county’s new alignment and met on the pitch Sept. 14. Host Lawrence prevailed, 2-0, behind goals by Joseph Gonzalez and Luis Manrique, and 9 saves from goalkeeper Gabriel Rosales.
The Golden Tornadoes improved to 2-1 under first-year varsity coach Gerard Lagasse, who spent 18 seasons leading the JV program before taking over the helm from Patrick Leary.
“I coached a lot of these kids before and there’s plenty of talent here,” Lagasse said. “It’s just a matter of being able to execute. They’re adjusting to a new system and our back four is very strong. We’ve played well so far.”
A defense featuring senior Emerson Mijango and junior Benji Perez in the center sets the tone for Lawrence. Mijango is a four-year varsity player with excellent technique, accurate passes and a strong leg to jumpstart the transition game, Lagasse said. Perez is dynamic in the air, difficult to beat on 50-50 balls and another weapon in transition.
Junior Yaxon Arriega is another returning starter on Lawrence’s defense. He plays right fullback and came into camp in the best shape of his life, the coach noted. He was joined by Gonzalez on the left. A converted midfielder, the fleet-footed junior has been one of the team’s top performers thus far.
In goal, Rosales, a sophomore, has stepped up in the early going to earn the job. He has two shutouts already. “He’s raw but very solid,” Lagasse said. “He has reflexes like a cat and is good with his feet, which is an advantage for us because he helps us offensively from the defensive third.”
Senior center-midfielder Jonathan Valiente is being counted on to spark the offense and connect with the front trio. “He’s a dangerous playmaker who makes a lot of good things happen” Lagasse said. A pair of newcomers—juniors Troy Batac and Alex Samayoa — are leading the Golden Tornadoes as defensive middies.
Center striker Manrique, a senior, has the ability to put the ball in the back of the net at any time, the coach said. He’s explosive with strong 1-on-1 moves and brings a non-stop motor. He also scored in a 5-0 victory over Valley Stream North.
Unlike Lawrence, the Hewlett roster doesn’t feature many familiar faces. Coach Jesse Corben returned only three starters, led by All-County selection Matthew Lamour, a senior center-midfielder who can play anywhere on the field.
“My biggest concern with such a young team is the transition from the speed of the JV game to the varsity game,” Corben said. “I know the kids are going to work hard and battle.”
The Bulldogs are 0-2-1 through three games. Lamour is a four-year varsity performer and a leader along with senior Zachary Tucker, a physical defensive middie. Junior twins Brandon and Matthew Fridburg are additional keys to Hewlett’s success. Brandon is a dangerous striker and Matthew the starting keeper with a take-charge attitude and strong leg.
The teams meet again Oct. 7 at Hewlett at 3 p.m.