Two years ago, Fordham Prep soccer coach Pete McNamara called up a handful of sophomores and a talented freshman out of necessity, realizing patience with his underclassmen was vital.
“That year they came up, we only had three or four seniors,” McNamara said. “We had to bring these kids up and develop them and they immediately played a lot of minutes.”
That group is now the core of a Rams squad coming off a disappointing loss to rival Iona Prep in last year’s CHSAA Class AA intersectional final, the perennial powerhouse’s fourth city title game in five years.
“We really know how each other plays and we play well together,” senior Erich Eberts said. “We’re a really tight group.”
The defeat to the Gaels came after Fordham Prep claimed the Archdiocesan crown for the first time in three years. These seniors have performed under the bright lights of big games since they were sophomores.
“We know how to take the pressure,” Mark Higgins said.
While standouts Nihad Musovic and Mike McNamara have graduated, leading the returning group and anchoring the backline is center back Mark Kramarchuk, who has been on the varsity since he was a freshman. He’s already embraced the leadership role McNamara hopes the others establish.
“A lot of us played last year and all of us are experienced,” Kramarchuk said. “It’s really helpful that we’ve played together before.”
“When he’s healthy and on the field, it’s just a whole different backline,” McNamara said of Kramarchuk.
That’s a caveat McNamara has had to use often. Dylan Cope and Mark Higgins have also battled injuries over the last two years.
Cope and Greg McNamara were also part of that sensational sophomore class, while junior Sebastian Palomino is in his third year on the varsity, making the Rams one of the most experienced and talented teams in the CHSAA.
“I thought last year’s team came together really well,” Pete McNamara said. “They were part of that and they’re bringing that into this year, too. When you see them play, they do play at a different level and when they play together, they’re very nice to watch.”
The two biggest questions heading into Fordham Prep’s regular-season opener, against Xavier at Aviator Field Tuesday, are on the opposite ends of the field – in goal and up front.
Pete McNamara hasn’t decided on a starting goalkeeper yet, with Jacob Szibisky and Mark Radjovic still battling it out, and he’s unsure of who will start up front with Gaetano Taormina, Richard Mosner and Jack Siebecker in contention.
“Finding those two or three kids who can play up front is my challenge,” Pete McNamara said.
Fordham Prep takes on rival Iona Prep on Thursday with the loss last November still fresh on most of their minds.
“Obviously it’s a motivation, but you can’t think about it in the bad sense,” Cope said. “You have to think about it as coming back and proving everybody wrong.”
Be sure to check out MSGVaristy.com tomorrow for a look at the No. 4 team in our NYC preseason boys soccer rankings.
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter: @Dylan_Butler