Last year, head varsity baseball coach Helms Bohringer broke with tradition and started his first freshman on an opening day roster. This year, returning sophomore Jimmy Bulva joins a group of classmates on the youngest team Bohringer fields in his 14-year tenure.
The Mustangs move to Conference A-III this season, where fewer playoff spots are open, make it more challenging to continue the team's post-season aspirations. While a conference championship may not be possible, the team should be the 11th playoff qualifier for the Adelphi Hall of Fame coach.
Three seniors anchor a pitching rotation that determines how far the Mustangs advance in May. Nick Conte, Rob Sallie and John Carlo Clancy take to the mound and must eat innings for the team to succeed. The offense is driven by outfielders Matt Lanfair and Paul Frietas. TJ Winters provides bench depth after a two-year sabbatical.The Mustangs face immediate adversity as closer and catcher Matt Manteria's bout with mononucleosis places him on the injury list for the first few weeks of the season. He will be sorely counted upon when his strength returns for the stretch run. Utility-man Paul Chung is a valued commodity on a team needing support at any given position.
Juniors Anthony Fabrico and Jack Clark are critical to infield defense especially during league games, which Bohringer said are "absolutely critical." Matt Morris is the first option as the starting catcher during Manteria's absence. Outfielder Brendan Maloney brings baseball intelligence to the field and the plate for a team needing to play smart and alert.
Unfortunately, the signature event of the Mustangs season may have to find an alternate venue. The annual commute to Brooklyn's KeySpan Park, home of the Mets Brooklyn Cyclones affiliate, may be swapped to either Adelphi or Hofstra in a scheduling conflict for a non-league contest against Garden City.
Early predictions for the class of the conference are Seaford and South Side. The Mustangs will face both during final two series of the regular season when the squad should be in top form. Scheduling Division Avenue High School, the Class A defending champion, as the season opener puts the onus on precision from the outset. Improvement during the short season is the logical goal and the ability to scrimmage CHSAA and neighborhood foe Chaminade adds drama and camaraderie in a loose but serious atmosphere.
Ultimately, the sophomores are the wild cards for the upcoming season. Bulva looks strong and comfortable in his second season, splitting time at both infield corners along with some mound work. Clearing the bus depot wall may even be a possibility at home games in 2009. Pitchers Nick Moran and John Caputo will be put to the test early, and are expected to be surprises on the upside. At shortstop, Tommy Ward is expected to anchor the defense up the middle. Bohringer has also hinted that junior varsity call-ups may be on the horizon.
The Mustangs will see outstanding talent on the opposing side of the diamond. Seaford's shortstop Mike Perrone and pitcher Keith Dolega are expected to be division winners while Manhasset's Matt Demitroff is a Jose Reyes clone. Kevin Brown of South Side is also anticipated to return to All-County form and be a nuisance on the basepaths. Between Bohringer and assistant Barry Silverstein, the Mustangs need to limit mistakes and squeak out tight victories in an effort to keep the Mineola legacy intact.
Lady Mustangs head coach Mike Boccuzza had no idea what to expect when he took the reins of the softball team last year. After only one year as an assistant before assuming the lead, Boccuzza wanted the Mustangs to be competitive, build a foundation and restore the tradition of Mineola softball. Little did he know he would inherit a juggernaut, which captured a conference championship and faced one of the best teams in Nassau County in the playoffs. The core of the team returns and with it, a more difficult schedule. While most coaches might question a two conference upgrade, Boccuzza has embraced the change and fully believes his girls are up to the task.
Seniors shoulder the load for a team that thinks the game as much as reacts to it. Sam Morris' season ending knee injury has healed and her return behind the plate will only enhance Lauren Sasso's tremendous freshman season. All-Conference selection Monique Torres will shift to shortstop from second base to fill the gap left by All-County graduating Senior Nicole Reardon. Adria DiGiovanni is a three-year starter in leftfield and is the team's likely leadoff hitter. Jill Wetzel's solid defense provides an anchor at first base.
Sasso leads a list of talented sophomores. Lauren was nearly unbeatable last year when the team compiled a record of 17-2. She will be counted on to continue the domination of conference opponents under the tutelage of assistant soach, Mineola alumna and former Molloy College player Melissa Skupp.
Infielder Krystie Kern contributed on a grand scale last year and should develop further. Tracy Reardon bounced from junior varsity to varsity a year ago but will become a staple at third base this year. Coming from good genes, the full time assignment should not be a problem.
Among the challengers in the new conference alignment will be Sewanhaka, Manhasset and Lynbrook. These tough games early on should set the tone for the season. South Side and Valley Stream North and Valley Stream South round out the conference.
Boccuzza, last year's conference coach of the year, believes this team is fundamentally sound and ready for better competition. Team speed and athleticism serve the Lady Mustangs well but the team will need to offset depth and rookie nerves. A non-league contest against a well-schooled Friends Academy and a scrimmage versus Class AA powerhouse Oceanside will help to prepare the team for unforeseen circumstances.
The volume of two and three sport student-athletes on the roster helps to ensure the team is in great physical condition. Just like spring training for Major League clubs, pitchers and catchers have been working together since early January and are getting stronger. A solid mix of youth and experience provides for an exciting season with another opportunity to re-establish Mineola as a softball power and a perennial playoff participant.
Despite injuries and a short roster, coach Frank Massaro's Lady Mustang lacrosse team fought their way to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance in 2008. This season, the team is dedicated to another post-season run with a veteran group of student-athletes that is fast becoming a pipeline of talent to the collegiate level. Moving to Conference III avoids weekly battles with powerhouses such as Garden City, Farmingdale, Massapequa and Wantagh but will serve the team well when they meet these foes in the second season. Big things are expected from a hardworking and passionate group.
Senior All-Conference and Academic All-Americans lead this year's team. Goalie Caitlyn Taveira will control the crease before heading off on scholarship to Stonehill College while attackers Melissa Pastoressa and Emily Kain provide the scoring punch. Pastoressa returns from a rehabbed ACL and Kain looks to extend her family's Mustang lacrosse legacy (her sister is a junior star at Siena College). All-County defender Emily Glenn heads off to Molloy College after her final season at Mineola. All four have a lot of experience, which will help lead the Lady Mustangs. Classmate Maureen Phelan supports the offensive force with crisp passing and a knack for the goal.
Experience dominates the underclasswomen as juniors Samantha Stavish and Heather Dolan anchor both ends of the turf. Stavish's lightning speed makes her a scoring threat on every rush and Dolan's tenacity combined to Glenn's gives the team a strong defensive tandem. Sophomore Kalie Medlock has all the tools to balance the midfield and become one of the best of the bunch. Stavish and Medlock return as All-Conference selections.
Massaro receives a big help this year as former Adelphi University All-American and NCAA champion Katherine Hock moves in as varsity assistant. Hock, a record holder across a variety of offense categories with the Panthers, will be a valuable teacher to the current roster. Former Mustang alumna Katie Carter is fast approaching Hock's record-setting pace at her alma mater as the current dominant player at Adelphi.
Massaro's proven success is evident through a scattering of former players throughout Division I programs (Kristen and Lauren Mobyed at George Washington, Kasey Hughes at Iona, recent graduate Allie Carnabuci at Marist and the previously mentioned Kain and Carter).
Local opponents help round out this year's schedule with conference games against Floral Park, Carey, Herricks, Carle Place and New Hyde Park. Non-conference foes include Division, East Meadow and Seaford. The scrimmage schedule included tests against Syosset and Wantagh.
Massaro is confident his squad will be ready for whatever challenges await and be competitive in each and every contest. If so, a fifth consecutive playoff appearance should result.