The West Hempstead boys’ soccer team has been dealing with the injury bug to start off its 2023 campaign. While the Rams have hung tough thus far, they find themselves at 0-2 after dropping games to Evergreen Charter and Wheatley.
“It’s been tough on us so far with injuries,” longtime Rams coach Chris Van Kovics said. “We need our players to step up and play anywhere. We can’t have set forwards or midfielders, everyone is going to have to move around and perform the best they can.”
One of the West Hempstead players who has impressed so far is Elber Zavala. Zavala is currently the leading goal scorer for the Rams and is an absolute ballhawk. He consistently finds the ball on his feet and more often than not it leads to a goal.
Daniel Sanchez will be the starting goalkeeper for West Hempstead, but has yet to play this season. Currently between the pipes is senior Mason Stern. He’s an interesting story because before this year he’d never played soccer before. In his first year in a brand new sport, he’s impressed.
“[Stern] was one of the only guys in tryouts who actually wanted to play goalie,” Van Kovics said. “He’s done a very nice job for us and once Sanchez is back he’ll be an important defensive piece. He’s tough and he’s quick, so he’s just what we need back there.”
Returning seniors for the Rams are Xavier Sarmiento, Kevin Alonzo and Carlos Mejia. Sarmiento gives West Hempstead some great size on the defensive end and has a superb first touch. Alonzo will be asked to join Zavala and put the ball in the back of the net this season while Mejia will be splitting time as a defender and midfielder and handling free kicks, throw-ins and corner kicks.
Another returning player who saw significant time last season is Angel Guzman. Guzman, like Sarmiento, is a bigger body for West Hempstead and will be key for winning head balls and stopping opposing offensive attacks.
Jayden Leslie, Leroy Garcia, Fredi Castro, Justin Gerardo, and Gaetan Leroy round out the lineup for West Hempstead and will sort of be a group of much needed utility men. Leslie and Garcia will be a part of the offensive attack with Zavala and Alonzo while Gerardo will be asked to be a main piece on defense. Castro and Leroy are two quick players with a good first touch who will be able to play wherever they are needed.
“We’re going to come onto the field and be the best team we possibly can,” Van Kovics said. “We want to get better every day. We have to play very good defense in front of a good keeper and try to get as many opportunities on the offensive end that we can and if we can do that we could make a run into playoffs.”
West Hempstead hits the road for its next two games before hosting Carle Place on Sept. 28.