September 26, 2011

Assistant Men's Soccer Coach Santamaria's Second Blog Entry

BLOG ENTRY #2 (Sept. 26, 2011) - Week 2 and 3 of the season saw the Mercy College Men's Soccer team play 4 games in 10 days. It also saw the beginning of the new school year. The team was preoccupied getting ready for all these games in a short period of time and starting well in the classroom. Our first game versus Holy Family was cancelled due to bad weather that hit New York that week. This bought the coaching staff a few more days in order to prepare for the Saint Anselm's Hawks. It was the first game of a 2 game home stand for the Mavericks.

September 10th was the date of the Mavericks home debut for the 2011 season. Excitement was in the air. After having a rain filled week, the weather was incredible for the game. The Mavericks started the game playing extremely well in the opening minutes of the game. Senior captain Bujar Lajqi had the first clear scoring opportunity of the game. Lajqi took a shot from around 30-yards out from goal. The senior captain was unfortunate not to score as the ball deflected off the cross bar. The Hawks scored first. This was a definite wake up call for the Mavericks. As the game went on, Saint Anselm's commits a foul just outside the penalty area. Senior Collin Legge, stepped up to the ball and scored the free kick. The shot beat the Hawks goal keeper by going through the bottom right hand corner of the goal. After equalizing the game, the Mavericks had the better of play the rest of the 1st half. But, with 4 minutes left to the end of the half, the Hawks forward took a shot from 25 yards out, catching the Mavericks off guard, scoring a great goal from distance. It was time to reorganize the troops. Coach Smith and his staff tried to inspire better defensive play from his team at halftime. They needed to understand that there was still a great chance to tie the game up again and go for the win. Shockingly, the Hawks scored their 3rd goal at the start of the 2nd half. Now, with a 2 goal deficit, it was time for the Mavericks to push numbers forward in order to try to save the game. Scoring opportunities kept coming for the Mavericks. Junior Forward, William Koki was breaking down the Hawks defense and having incredible success doing it. Koki scored a header goal from 4 yards out, making the game 3-2 in favor of the Hawks. The Mavericks kept pressing on, when Koki scored his second goal of the afternoon. Koki received a great through ball towards net. After eluding the goal keeper for Saint Anselm's, Koki was able to tie the game up and force overtime. Overtime games seemed to be a trend that the Mercy College Mavericks had going on. On this day, it was going to be a tough loss to endure. With 3 minutes left into the double overtime, the ball got loose in the defensive box of the Mavericks and Saint Anselm's walked away with a 4-3 victory. This put the Mavericks with a record of 1-1-1 in their first 3 games. The team showed a lot of character by putting themselves back into the game and taking it to overtime.

The Nyack Warriors were the 2nd game of the home stand for the Mavericks. The Nyack Warriors came into the game with a 3-1 record and ranked 10th in the Eastern Region. The game was fast paced and entertaining from the beginning. Mercy again took charge in the opening minutes. Senior captain Ben Latchford and Junior Ernest Afful had the scoring opportunities for the Mavericks. Latchford and the Mercy College Mavericks got rewarded with the opening score of the match. Latchford from 6 yards out tucked the ball passed the Warriors goal keeper. The Mavericks kept their dominance of the 1st half.  Freshman Tafari Newman found fellow Freshman Roberto Dashi, who was making his 1st career appearance for the Mavericks, off a long throw in. Dashi flicked the ball to the back post in order to find a wide open Bujar Lajqi. Lajqi ended up putting the ball into the back of the net scoring his first goal of the season. The game became a total midfield battle. Both teams were defending extremely hard so the other team did not have any scoring chances. Midway through the 2nd half, hard tackles starting flying in from both teams. Neither team wanted to give up an inch. Nyack got on the board off a corner kick late in the half making it 2-1. The Mavericks kept their composure and were able to secure the win.

Back on the road for a tough outing against Felician College. The team felt confident about this game. The Mavericks understood that Felician was going to be a good team that was going to try to play good soccer. As the game started Felician took control of the game. The Mavericks held their ground defensively to keep the game tied for most of the half. Felician College got on the board first. The goal was scored from around 8 yards out hitting the top corner of the goal. Junior goal keeper Nick Papas did not have a chance to make a save. The game was 1-0 at halftime for Felician College. The 2nd half started with the Mavericks controlling the tempo of the game. A foul was committed on Senior Collin Legge 22 yards away from goal. Senior Mark Guerrero and Legge stepped up to the ball. Legge slightly tapped the ball to Guerrero, who proceeded to strike the ball into the goal, beating the Felician goal keeper. The score was all knotted up for the rest of the 2nd half. Both teams created some scoring opportunities in order to win the game. Another overtime game loomed over the night. In the first minute of the overtime, Terrell Chapman strips the ball from a Felician defender at midfield. With his speed, he dribbles up the field and gets taken down with a hard foul. Senior Collin Legge serves the ball back post, Senior Lamine Seck picked up the loose ball and passed the ball to Junior midfielder Mustaffa Alobeidy, who received the ball 10 yards out and blasted the ball in between the goal keepers legs. It was an incredible feeling to win our first game in overtime on the season. It was time to head back home to start the East Coast Conference games.

Bridgeport, the Mavericks' first conference opponent of the year. The Purple Knights came in to this game ranked 10th in the Eastern Region. Bridgeport, one of the toughest teams in the conference was going to come to Mercy to try to out play the Mavericks. At the start of the game, the Purple Knights had the better of play. The Mavericks held their own for the most part. Bridgeport took the lead first. Mercy had to find a way out again. This was the third game that the Mavericks had to find a way to overcome this deficit. The 1st half ended with the Mavericks pushing forward and controlling the game. Coach Smith rallied the troops. It was a moment of truth for the Mavericks. It was time to see if all the hard work was going to pay off. The 2nd half started. Freshman Daniel Leon gave the team a breath of fresh air. He came on to the field distributing the ball to his teammates. In the 1st five minutes, Leon found a cutting Collin Legge, who took a touch and got taken down inside the penalty area. Legge proceeded to bury the ball in the back of the net. The game was a back and forth battle where both team's back line was under constant pressure. Senior back Keith Dillion and Junior back Manuel Paulino kept the defense organized for the Mavericks. Like the other games before that, the game was taken to overtime. The Mavericks came out energized trying to win the game in the early stages of the first overtime period. Junior goal keeper Nick Papas made a crucial save with 3 minutes left. The Purple Knights served a corner kick, which the Mavericks went on to clear the ball. The Purple Knights' midfielder took a shot from 19 yards out. Papas dove to his left stopping the ball on the line, Senior Mark Guerrero went on to clear the ball up the field. With 1 minute left in the first overtime period, the Mavericks transitioned from defense to offense with unbelievable speed. Senior Forward Ben Latchford found a slashing William Koki. Koki, received the ball and faced 3 defenders in front of him. With one of the most spectacular individual plays, Koki lifted the Mercy College Mavericks to their first East Coast Conference victory. Now it was time to focus on our next conference opponent, Queens College.

This week's focus in preparing for Queens College was managing injuries and especially managing success.  Coach Smith really wanted to emphasize that our main concern was going to be that the road was just going to get tougher. Each game was going to be the most important game. Queens College is the most important game in our upcoming schedule.  

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BLOG ENTRY #1 (Sept. 14, 2011) - Following in last year's footsteps, Mercy College Assistant Men's Soccer Coach Hernando Santamaria has begun Year 2 of his blog and below is the first entry for the 2011 season.

Back to work again. It was time to prepare the boys for a tough 2011 season. August 16th came upon us quickly. Finally, our second season together as a coaching staff was about to start. The day was filled with nerves, excitement and high expectations from all of the coaches. As for the team, curiosity and anticipation for what the upcoming season would bring was building. 13 returning and 15 new student athletes showed up for the 1st day of preseason.

The first day was an administrative day for the team. The boys had to fill out different paperwork, for both the team and NCAA, to be cleared for the season. Next, the boys got a chance to play in a 6 vs 6 tournament and show the coaches what they had worked so hard
for all summer. The boys were divided into 4 teams and the winning team would not have to participate in the 2-mile fitness test. Each team played a total of six games, with only two teams reaching the final round.

This year's preseason had a slight twist to it. As a staff, we wanted to evaluate the team as quickly as possible.  We designed our sessions to be more 11v11 oriented. The game itself is a great teacher, we let practice and the scrimmages dictate what our coaching points were going to be. We as a staff, decided to go this route because the team put in extra effort this summer to come to preseason fit. Now, it was time to put a line up together.

After 12 days of hard work, after 12 days of waking up early to train, it was time to end preseason on a positive note. Skit night signified the culmination of our 12 days together as a team. This day was for us to be together one last time before school started. It gave us a chance to enjoy dinner together and share some great laughs with the guys. The team was divided into 3 teams. The teams were made up by freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, while the coaches, captains, and seniors were the judges. It was a great night to spend as a team and brought the team even closer than before.

Now, moment of truth was upon us. Week one of the season was here and preparation for our first two games began. The coaching staff worked to make sure every detail was covered for the weekend. We needed to make certain that everything that we could control was taken care of so there was as little stress on the boys as possible and they could focus on what was important, the game. That week the team needed to understand that everything that we had taught them, and prepared them for was soon approaching. Our first weekend playing was going to the College of Saint Rose tournament. It was a tournament that had the following participants: Nyack College, Saint Michael's College, Mercy College, and the host school.

Our first game was against the Saint Michael's Purple Knights. The game was scheduled to be played at 7pm and it was a beautiful night in Albany. The team was anxious to get this game going and the conditions and atmosphere could not have been more perfect. As the game started, both teams look fairly even. The game was a tremendous midfield battle. Both teams were organized and did not offer the other team any scoring opportunities. The start of the second half was under way and Saint Michael's had the first clear scoring chance but Junior transfer Manuel Paulino saved the ball off the line to keep the game scoreless. The Mavericks started pushing numbers forward in order to start up the offense. The Maverick's fitness was helping them hold on to the ball more as Saint Michael's was depleting physically. The game ended up as a scoreless tie which essentially was a positive result to the 2011 season. 

The second game of the season was against The College of Saint Rose, who was hosting the tournament for the weekend. The game started with the Mercy Mavericks creating excellent scoring opportunities through Junior transfers Ernest Afful and William Koki. Together they were dangerous in front of the goal, putting Saint Rose under a lot of pressure. Saint Rose got on the board first, scoring the first goal. The Mavericks kept on pushing forward in order to find the equalizer. At halftime, Coach Smith and the coaching staff got together to figure out what was the best way to get back in the game and win it. A few changes were made and they paid off. Senior Collin Legge propelled the Maverick offense. With 11 minutes left, Legge ran down the flank and found a wide open William Koki, who then laid off the ball to Afful who was standing 18 yards out. Afful struck the ball with his right foot scoring the equalizer. With the game tied, now it was a test to see which team was willing to win the game. Freshman Terrell Chapman gave the team an energy boost. With his athleticism, Chapman was able to run down a ball and hold off the defender that was on his back while Legge made an over lapping run towards goal. Chapman gave the ball to Legge who shot a bullet back post with his right foot. The Mavericks held off the Golden Knights to win their first game of the season.

The Mavericks have started their 2011 season on a positive note. The team is 1-0-1 after the first weekend of competition. The Mavericks come back home for two games against Saint Anselm's and Nyack College. The Mavericks are looking to keep adding positive results to their season and competing for a playoff spot in the East Coast Conference.

Building Something Special.