By Mike Zummo
In a normal season, the Wallkill boys’ soccer team would have qualified for postseason play.
This season has been far from normal.
The Panthers finished the Fall 2 soccer season, played in March and April after Section 9 postponed the Fall season from September and October, two teams have been chosen to play in a Section 9 Class A title game, leaving the Panthers on the outside looking in.
The Panthers were knocked from postseason contention when they suffered a 2-1 road loss to the Red Hook Raiders on April 6. They battled Red Hook to a scoreless tie March 27, but also suffered key losses to New Paltz on March 15, and FDR on March 24.
“This year was different because they only took two of the As,” Wallkill coach Chris Valencia said. “We were ousted, but in a normal season we would be in with our record.”
Also, in a normal season, the Panthers wouldn’t be putting in a new offensive formation in the last game of the season, and it took more than a half for the Panthers to adjust. They finally broke through in the 36th minute when Aidan Bartlett picked up a bouncing ball in front of the net after a corner kick.
He redirected the ball into the net, giving the Panthers the only goal they would need.
“I think it was more of them becoming comfortable,” Valencia said. “They were getting used to the new formation and then able to communicate because there were a few times where you saw that the communication broke down and then Marlboro was able to bust through. I kept reiterating to the players that they must communicate.”
With about 4 minutes to go, Brandon Ortiz added another.
The season finale also brought about the varsity debut of Anthony Anacone, who went into net for the Panthers and made four saves in the second half.
“I think he looked great,” Valencia said. “He was able to get the kicks and his throws on target. He was able to become a force in the back and communicate well with his defensive line. I think they became pretty comfortable with him fast.”
Anacone told Valencia during the second-half mask break that the game came at him faster than he had previously expected.
“I told him he was doing great,” Valencia said.
The Panthers were putting in a new offensive formation in the final game of the season because they were unable to do any work before the season or play any scrimmages before the games started. They spent the whole season learning on the fly.
“I believe what hindered my ability to judge or assess the kids is that I can normally hold open workouts and I was not able to do that comfortably,” Valencia said.
He’s expecting to have more of a normal offseason, but doesn’t want to overwork the team, due to the short offseason and will do minimum workouts until July, as they start to turn toward August.
However, that won’t be the case for the nine seniors who played their last game.
The Panthers also bid farewell to nine seniors.
“(The season) was very necessary,” Valencia said. “The boys really wanted to play, and I got a lot of ‘thank yous’ from the parents for being able to run and hold the season for the boys.”