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Mineola HS Soccer Expects Success in New County Alignment

The rebirth of the boy’s soccer program at Mineola in the last decade has brought considerable notoriety and success to the school. This year the team expects to continue that tradition.

The task in 2010 will be a bit different for the Mustangs. For the last several decades Nassau County boys soccer programs had been arranged in leagues according to ability. Mineola, in recent years, had competed with much larger schools such as Jericho, Southside, Garden City, and Roslyn in the top ability conference in the “A” classification.

This year, Section VIII Athletics decided to go to strict enrollment conferences across the board for all sports. As the 9th smallest program in the county (3rd smallest among the “A” schools), Mineola was placed in Conference 7 (out of 8) with many teams they have not faced in recent years.

The Mustangs will have to place in the top four spots of the conference in order to qualify for the playoffs. Coach Paul Pereira, entering his 14th season, is looking to extend the team’s playoff streak to seven consecutive years and 10 out of the last 14.  

After a State Final Four in 2005 and a trip to the County Finals the following year, the Mustangs have been knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals in each of the last three seasons. Pereira believes it is time for the Mustangs to revisit life in the semifinals and beyond.  

The Mustangs have developed a pedigree of All-County/All-State players over the past few years that are now enjoying considerable success at the collegiate level. Following in the footsteps of Gustavo Dias, Michael Marques, Anthony Morais, and Nuno Rodrigues, the mantel of Mustang tradition has now been handed to junior standout Christian Lird.

Lird, a starter since his freshman year, has shown tremendous promise and is the key to the team’s success in 2010.  Building on an All-Conference selection in each of the last two seasons and a member of the elite Albertson Academy USSF premier program, Christian leads eight returning starters from last year’s team including four fellow juniors and three seniors.  

Speedy senior Marco Oliveira will be the primary scoring threat after missing much of the 2009 season with injuries. Junior Paul Sandoval shares the forward spot with Oliveira and will be counted on for goals of his own.

The Mustang defense may be as stingy as any in the county. The defense is anchored by returning All County selection junior Denis Lazo-Cruz. Senior goalkeeper Filipe Ribeiro, as athletic and talented as any keeper in recent memory, will be the Mustangs net minder for the third year.

A pair of juniors, Joe Dores and Richie Forte, will complete the defensive back line that brings size, skill, and experience that will likely frustrate any opposing offense. Junior Daniel Muller will move up to the midfield to play alongside Lird. Seniors Vinny Carvalho and Tom Satalino will see significant playing time and will have an immediate impact.

Quality minutes will come from a strong supporting cast including Alex Goncalves, Andre Cancelinha, Fred Muller, Josh Hincapie, and sophomore Josh Lopes. Mineola will likely face stiff challenges from Island Trees, a perennial playoff contender, and the likes of North Shore, Valley Stream North, and Floral Park.  

Al Cavaluzzo joins Pereira as the varsity assistant for another year while Pete Blum pilots the JV team. Continuity reigns as Cavaluzzo has teamed with Pereira since 1998 while Blum played for Pereira during his early years as a Carle Place Middle School coach in the mid-1990s. Don Leopardi and Billy DiGennaro round out the program at the Middle School.

For game schedules, standings, directions, and statistics check out www.lisoccer.org, the official website of Nassau County Boys Soccer.