By Greg Klein STAFF WRITER
---- — One game at a time is practically the gold standard of coach speak and they have taken it to heart in the Tri-Valley League.
“You are absolutely right about not looking ahead,” Milford boys coach Frank Spurchise said. “Our team will be competitive and we will take one game at a time and see how we progress.”
Still, for Cherry Valley-Springfield and Milford, in boys and girls soccer, one almost can’t help but look ahead to the last games of the season. Circle the date: Oct. 14. It isn’t just Columbus Day, it may be the day the Tri-Valley East titles are decided in soccer when the Milford girls are at CV-S and the CV-S boys are at Milford.
The East powers are arguably each other’s biggest rivals too, and all four teams should be good this season.
The Wildcat girls under Chris Saggese have won the East title three years in a row. They tied Morris for the cross-over title the past two years. Milford lost very few players from last year’s squad which finished 11-3-3, losing to Section Four Class D champion Franklin on a late goal in the section semifinals. In addition, they get back junior Emilie Mertz, who missed soccer season last year with a knee injury.
Milford is still a young team. Many of the key players last year were freshman and several were eighth graders. Senior Kaley Chase, sophomore Addy Lawson and sophomore Hannah Saggese will be key players. Chase led the team with 15 goals. Lawson had 10 goals and seven assists. Saggese had nine goals and nine assists, and will have to step up and replace Francesca Green, the Milford sweeper who was the heart of last year’s team.
In addition, the goalie tandem of Rukiya Henderson and Monica Ridgeway – who were coming in untested last season – now have some experience in the net.
The CV-S girls, coached by Amy Garretson, have more senior leaders than their rivals. Leading scorers Lauren Loucks, Jordan Loucks and Zane Ashford are all back for their senior seasons. Lauren led the team with 14 goals and five assists while Jordan had seven goals and four assists. Ashford had five goals and five assists. Goalie Kylie Graham and Jessica Carson are also seniors.
The Patriots were 10-4-2 last season, but faltered down the stretch before being eliminated from the playoffs by Davenport. CV-S and Milford tied twice in eight days last year, and the division title came down to the final week of the season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it came down to the final games again this year.
In the West, Morris lost a good percentage of its team to graduation, but returns Haley Wist and McKenna Hungerford. Franklin will start the season as the favorite.
On the boys’ side, the situation is reversed. Milford’s boys may be the East favorites in every other sport this school year and the overall Tri-Valley favorite in basketball as well. But in soccer, the season always begins with CV-S being the favorite.
After all, CV-S has won the East for seven straight years.
“Certainly, Terri Adams at CV-S has built a respected program,” Spurchise said. “I expect that her team along with Edmeston, who returns a majority of their squad, will be league favorites.”
The Patriots lost several key seniors from last year’s squad, which went undefeated (15-0) in the regular season before losing to Morris in the Tri-Valley title game and Section Four Class D champs Marathon in the section semifinals. Leading scorer Kyle Jaquay and second leading scorer Ethan Drugatz have both graduated as has Andrew Spencer.
Still, coach Adams lost seven seniors the previous year from a team that won a Section Four Class D title, and her team didn’t suffer. Adams preaches a team game, focusing on ball control and a system that has worked for her for years. Replacing a couple of scorers this season shouldn’t slow her system down much, if at all.
In addition, CV-S has several key seniors this season, and an even bigger junior class that came up last year. Senior goalie Jon French will be one of the key players. Junior Jake Spencer is the top returning scorer; he had 10 goals last year. Senior Wyatt Crowley and junior Dan Bosma also return. Crowley had four goals and six assists last year while Bosma had four goals and three assists.
Milford finished the season 9-5-2 with two of those losses to the Patriots. They were eliminated in the playoffs by Notre Dame of Elmira, the Section Four Class D runner-up.
Leading scorer junior Peyton Griffiths is back; he had 16 goals and five assists last year. Junior forward Michael Strenck will also have to pick up the scoring slack to replace Elijah Coley, the team’s second-leading scorer last year.
Junior Max Lang will take over at goalie for Parker Fish. He’ll get some help on defense where several top players return including junior midfielders Blake Elliott, Will Ward and senior Eli Rutledge, and in the backfield, juniors Jacob Tabor, Paul Van Warner and Adam Renwick.
Both Milford teams will begin the season on Sept. 3; the girls will be at Richfield Springs while the boys will host the Indians. The CV-S girls will start the season at Fort Plain on Sept. 3. The Patriot boys begin on Sept. 6 at Schenevus.