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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 27, 2009

Blackbird soccer shooting for another successful run

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– The Blackbird soccer team has appeared in two consecutive Class CC semi-finals since Head Coach Willie Sanchez took over. That’s not a comfortable ending point for the team.

Voorheesville lost a semi-final to Galway in 2007 and dropped a tough game to Lake George in 2008. Last year’s 12 seniors had a real good shot at a sectional championship, but came up short.

“Obviously, our goal is to win sectionals, just like any other team out there,” said Sanchez after practice on Tuesday. “We had some really great players last year, but we ran into an excellent Lake George team. Those guys are gone and we’re ready to work with what we have.”

The Blackbirds said goodbye to Ryan Dimmitt, the 12th leading scorer in Section II last year, and to All-Star goalie Lee Fenner. The only two returning seniors for 2009 are Zack Keller and Eric Meyer.

Joe Cillis, Andrew Cole, Chris Dimmitt, Zach Jones, and Hayden Wood round out the returning group.

“Last year, we relied more on individual efforts from guys like Dimmitt and Fenner,” Keller said. “Now that all those guys are gone, we have more of a level playing field, and more chemistry. We want to maintain our winning reputation.”

Sanchez told The Enterprise that he’s been thinking about how young the team is this year and how to approach that challenge. There are no true leaders on his roster.

“You’re going to have a real young team sometimes; it’s just part of the game. However, these young guys have some real skill,” said Sanchez. “They all have the great science of chemistry and it will pull us through some tough moments this year. They all grew up playing together and I know they have what it takes.”

New to the team are senior Marty Hesselbacher; juniors Pat Brousseau, Evan Campana, Ryan Corbett, Joe Keenan, Sal Loccisano, and Nick Pettograsso; sophomores David Suozzo, and J.D. Springer; and freshman Blake Fenner.

Keenan will be filling the goaltending spot left behind by Lee Fenner, and Sanchez is confident that he is ready. Keenan grabbed a few nice saves and punted the ball well in Tuesday’s practice.

“Keenan won’t be playing at the level of Fenner, but he has good hands and is tall enough to stretch out for the save,” Sanchez said. “He’s a true athlete and I can see him getting better with time. He’ll do his share to help us out.”

“I think some of these new guys might be just as good as the returning players,” said Meyer. “If we focus on possession then we won’t have to worry about Keenan in goal.”

Coach Sanchez is looking at a collective leadership to begin the season. “Hopefully, a few guys will step up and be a captain role player,” he said. “I’m looking to the guys who were here before. They should lead by example, if they aren’t already.”

The Blackbirds will have good speed and foot skills up front with Cillis and Wood, while Chris Dimmitt will try to create in the midfield. The team is more technical and less physical than last season.

“We don’t have standout figures anymore, but I’m totally OK with that,” Sanchez said. “We have players that will chase down the ball and score goals. It’s all about finding that winning balance.”

Voorheesville will look to continue its impressive showing in a tough Colonial Council as the only Class CC school in the league. The team finished in second place last year.

“If you don’t come to play in the Colonial then you’ll have an awful season,” said Sanchez. “Look at Schalmont, they’re consistently at the top of the league. We look up to them as a good match.”

The Blackbirds will start the season with the Second Annual Voorheesville Tournament on Sept. 11 against Christian Brothers Academy, Catholic Central, and Loudonville Central. The first league game is home against Cohoes on Sept. 16 and then the team has three straight away games against Schalmont, Albany Academy, and Cobleskill.

“That is a pretty tough schedule to start with,” Sanchez said. “It’ll be a challenge and I hope we can find a balance.”

Coach Sanchez has been hearing that his team is too young, but that doesn’t mean that his players aren’t good.

“I’m very excited about this year. I think we’re good to go,” said Sanchez as he got into his car. “I think time will help us and we’ll be peaking at the end of the season. It’s the exact time you want to peak. And that’s just the type of thing we’ve done the last two times.”

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