The last 18 months have been hard for all of us, but it has been especially difficult for high school athletes. The coronavirus pandemic ended playing careers early, dashed championship dreams and changed local record books forever. However, as this fall season begins, it feels like maybe we are getting a fresh start.
Sure, we know it could all come to a crashing halt at any moment, but with the return of certain rituals like the first day of practice and getting in shape for pre-season, we can only hope that this fall will bring back a bit of normalcy.
With the new season now upon us, here are a few things I am looking forward to:
• While some Otsego County fall teams didn’t get to play last school year, one of the teams that did was the Schenevus girls soccer team. With an undefeated spring season under its belt, this team will be the one to watch. Led by junior scoring phenom Angelina Competiello, the Dragons appear to be one of the favorites in the Tri-Valley League and in Section IV, Class D. Competiello has 81 career goals and is already the all-time leading goal scorer in school history with two seasons left to play. She is surrounded by a very solid supporting cast, including Taylor Knapp and Lily Competiello, who are two of the best-kept secrets. If you are looking to watch small school soccer of the highest quality, make sure you make the trip to Schenevus.
• Staying on the theme of must-see soccer, I am also excited to check out the Oneonta boys and the Cooperstown boys teams. Oneonta lost a lot of talent to graduation, but they return with one of the best goal scorers in Finlay Oliver. There is no doubt that Oliver is ready to put on a show for local fans. His work with high level off-season travel ball should propel him to be arguably the best player in the area.
On the flip side, the word out of Cooperstown is the Hawkeyes will have one of the most balanced teams in recent memory. A group that has been coming up together since grade school, CCS could be ready to make Coop a soccer town for a few months this fall.
• Another team I want to watch as the leaves turn is the Unatego girls soccer squad. The Spartans are a team that made the Class C state final in 2019 and are led by legendary local coach, Sue Herodes. Have they graduated a lot of talent? Yes. But can the Spartans reload? They have done it so many times in the past and I think they can do it again. As Delhi Coach Matt Albright recently told me, “the road to the MAC championship game always goes through Unatego.” I couldn’t agree more. With key players like Alexa Lucia, Kylie Mussaw and Anabel Rommer back, I wouldn’t count out UCS just yet.
So, as our local athletes prepare to get back to competition, make sure you get out and cheer them on. Nothing goes faster than the career of a high school athlete. As many kids have said to me over the years, “you think you have all this time then you blink and it is all over.” That is true now more than ever. These student athletes never know when their seasons might get cut short again, but for now it seems like our old rituals are back and we can focus on the promise of the season ahead.
Nate Lull is the sports director for WCDO in Sidney.