By Adam Martini
In the wake of the unspeakable, looking ahead to a new season of PSAL soccer may seem trivial, even callous. Yet it is a small sign of life continuing in Queens, if not America. So while still recovering from last week’s shock, teams in the Queens ‘B’ division resumed preparations this week for the upcoming soccer season.
Some teams in the division are ramping up new coaches as Richmond Hill, Thomas Edison, Jamaica and Arts & Business will start the season with a new skipper. Last week’s suspension of practices and other activities by the PSAL delayed assessment of players and roster moves, particularly at these schools.
In Queens ‘B’ North, the talented Jamaica Beavers welcome Eric Premisler. Hired well after last season ended, the new coach ran his first full practice on Monday. He admits to having modest knowledge of his new players’ styles and tendencies. He will count on team leader Kibony Richards to make plays on the field, but right now Richards will serve as a pseudo assistant coach, helping the new coach get a grip.
“They are anxious to play and I’m looking forward to coaching them,” said Premisler. “Getting back on the field will be a way for everyone to heal.”
As a Manhattan resident, he especially appreciates the devastation of last week’s terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. As a social studies teacher, he also recognizes its infamous place in American history too. Do his players understand the magnitude?
“I’m not sure if they can comprehend it,” Premisler said. “I’m not sure many adults can grasp what happened, no less youngsters. But we have to move on.”
Queens ‘B’ North opponents Thomas Edison and Arts & Business will be ushering in new coaches as well. At Thomas Edison, Dan Engelson will assume coaching duties for the Inventors; Carlos Balanos will patrol the sidelines for the Bulls.
Reached by phone last week, former Inventors coach Michael Peaceman said the suspension of after-school activities at Thomas Edison makes it difficult for anyone to measure the team right now, including the new coach. Likewise, school officials at Arts and Business said Balanos was yet to assess his players and set the roster.
Coaches for Queens ‘B’ North teams Hillcrest, Townsend Harris and Robert F. Wagner did not return phone calls earlier in the week. Each team will be shuffling rosters in the pre-season. One can only assume the coaches were working to make up for lost time.
In Queens ‘B’ South, the Richmond Hill Lions are without a head coach as Bob Sprance left to take the reigns at Forest Hills, but the school hopes to name one by this week or early next week, according to Athletic Director Tom Donohue. The talented Lions figure to be one of the better teams in the division, but without a head coach and the aid of practices, it’s nearly impossible to get a good assessment of the team. Not even the eligibility of all players is guaranteed.
“Any questions about the team will have to wait until we have a new coach in place,” said Donohue. “To think about anything else right now is premature.”
Unlike some of his peers, Mike Wilson is a returning coach. He’ll be back for his third season at the helm of the Campus Magnet Bulldogs. Hoping to contend for the Queens ‘B’ South crown, he is enthusiastic about the return key players, including forward Jory Reid and Kijana Kerr. He briefly laments losing five seniors, including all-round playmaker Deon King. But the biggest concerns for Wilson may be outside the lines of the soccer field.
A Navy reservist, Wilson may find himself serving his country instead of serving his team at anytime. Until then, he will concentrate on the season in front of him and thinks his players will do the same.
“We’ll be more focused and more disciplined,” said Wilson. “We are looking forward to a good season and hope to get going soon.”
Before the terrorists attacks, tryouts at Campus Magnet drew a decent turnout. An experienced team on the rise, the possibility of adding new talent to the mix was exciting.
The coaches for Queens ‘B’ South contenders Van Buren and Springfield Garden were also unavailable for comment earlier this week. However, each school’s athletic department indicated that the coaches and players are eager to return to the practice field and get ready for the upcoming season.