Mineola boys win L.I. soccer championship, Wheatley girls claim county crown

Mineola boys win L.I. soccer championship, Wheatley girls claim county crown
The Mineola boys soccer team won both a county championship, and a Long Island championship, last week. Photo Credit: Mineola H.S.

Teenagers say a lot of boastful things. It’s part of their charm. Everything seems possible when you’re 13, 14, 15 years old, and the past is irrelevant.

Just because nobody has done something ever before, or not for a long time, doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it.

So it seemed totally normal and in keeping with what he knows about young men that Mineola boys soccer coach Al Cavalluzzo approached a group of eighth-grade players in the fall of 2019, and listened as they set out what they believed was a totally realistic goal.

“We’re doing some training outside and they said to me ‘Coach, we’re winning a county title before we graduate,’” Cavalluzzo said. “I knew they were really good, so I said absolutely, I’m sure we will.

“But we hadn’t won since 2005, and other teams were also confident in themselves.”

Well, for once this group of ambitious kids did back up what the set out to do. Four years after their proclamation, Sebastian Knight, Aidan Breen and their classmates brought home the trophy to Mineola.

After a fantastic regular season that saw the Mustangs go 9-2-3, No. 3 seed Mineola posted three shutouts in the Class A playoffs, including a 3-0 win over No. 5 Lawrence, 3-0 on November 1 at Mitchel Field in Uniondale to claim the crown.

The final game saw Mineola get two goals from leading scorer Jose Escobar and another from Knight to pull away for the title.

“We’ve played together our whole lives, so to do this together was just so amazing,” said Knight. “We just always knew that we were good enough to win (counties).”

Once the team left the field and headed home, the celebration continued. Arriving back at the school the team found Mayor Paul Periera and a host of fire trucks saluting them, filling the town with the noise of the victors.

“It was crazy; we pulled up in the bus, and everyone in the community was out celebrating,” Knight said. “The sirens, the lights, the sounds … it was incredible.”

“It was pretty awesome what the town did, how proud everyone was,” Cavalluzzo said.

As if that celebration and accomplishment wasn’t enough, Mineola had some more drama in store a few days later.

In the Long Island championship game against Suffolk Class A titlist Kings Park on Nov. 5, the Mustangs raced out to a 3-1 lead at the half, sparked by an Escobar goal just 30 seconds into the match, and goals by Marlon Portillo and Adryan Campos.

“Even at 3-1, I wasn’t feeling that secure, because they’re an excellent team who throws a lot of guys into the box,” Cavalluzzo said. “I told our kids we weren’t going to sit back (to protect the lead), we were going to keep playing our game.”

But Kings Park rallied to tie with two goals in the second half, and the game went to overtime.

In the second extra period, Mineola’s Mohammed Alsayedi raced down the field and unleashed a shot from in front that caromed off a Kingsmen defender and into the net, setting off a wild celebration from the Mustangs faithful.

“Every time we put (Mohammed) into the game, he scores,” Cavalluzzo said. “All the kids stayed confident and felt the whole time in overtime that we were going to win. So, so proud of these kids.”

And yes, after the LIC win once again fire trucks and the mayor met the team back at school.

Mineola’s dream season will now continue in the state semifinals, November 10 at 3:15 p.m. against Byram Hills at Middletown High School.

For Mineola, the season that began with questions on how to replace one of the program’s all-time leading goal scorers, the graduated Jack Sargeant, resulted in a balanced attack led by Escobar, who has 16 goals.

“We’ve got a group of kids who are all about soccer, all the time, and spend all their time together,” Cavalluzzo said. “And that led to an unusually good team in terms of chemistry and playing together, and knowing where each other will be on the field.”

“His positioning and confidence on the ball, and his technique and touch, make him so good,” Knight said. “He’s so calm and relaxed, and he just gets us goals.”

Knight, a midfielder, helped power the attack, while Breen, a defender, helped a solid backline that was anchored by junior goalie Jesse Kostulias. Senior defenders Jad Najyb and Joe Keesee also contributed to an effort that saw the Mustangs give up only two goals since the start of October heading into the LIC.

“Our defense is the strength of the team,” Breen said. “If we give up a goal, we feel like we failed the team.”

For the Wheatley girls team, it was a charmed season that culminated in a Class B county championship.

Wheatley won the county title with a 6-0 victory over Oyster Bay on October 29.

The Wildcats (10-3-1) got two goals from Princeton-bound senior Sydney Romano, and the youthful squad cruised from there.

“Sydney is a kid who can do anything on the soccer field,” DeRuvo said “She’s going to college to play goalie, and she plays goalie in club, but since she was a freshman here we wanted to see if she could play the field and she’s been so fantastic.”

Wheatley’s lineup is incredibly young, with seven of the 11 regular starters sophomores or younger.

Freshman Ashley Zeifman scored 14 goals from her central midfield spot, while fellow freshman Krista Burke and sophomore Sadie Keys have also had outstanding seasons.

In the Long Island Championship game on Nov. 1, Wheatley was defeated by Suffolk B champ Babylon, 2-1. Zeifman scored the long goal for Wheatley, which had to play the whole second half a player down after a red card was issued late in the first half.

“Losing Syd next year will be huge but we have a lot of great young players coming up,” DeRuvo said. “And the experience they gained this year is invaluable.”



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  1. Back in the fall of 1979 our Mineola Mustang Soccer Team made it to the Nassau County Semifinals. Up until that time, no Mineola team had ever made it that far. None of us on that team dreamed that big prior to that season before making it there. We had a group of great guys, who played for each other and the glory of winning. All these years later, this year’s version of the Mustangs has surpassed all that we accomplished and so much more. My hearty congratulations to Coach Cavalluzzo and his Mustangs on completing their mission for Long Island Soccer Immortality. We who wore the MHS uniform and played before you on those fields, salute you and your exceptional accomplishments.


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