New coach, new hopes for Townsend Harris

By Mitch Abramson and Marc Raimondi

Now Sioukas is the Townsend Harris girls' soccer coach.”It's ironic that I ended up here,” he said. “I'm excited about this year.”Sioukas inherits a team that went 10-4-2 in league play and which has made the playoffs for at least 10 years running. The Hawks will likely stay strong with several returning players, including last season's second-leading goal scorer, forward Maria Paschalidis, forward Ann Elyse Urquidis and midfielder Natalia Guzman.Sioukas also expects several younger players to have an impact in the lineup, including sophomore sweeper Cait Kilpatrick and freshman midfielder/defender Maria Romano. Defender Marissa Lupo has some significant experience despite being a freshman. The team is trying out several goalkeeping prospects to round out the lineup.Look for Harris to play an aggressive type of game. “I'd like the defense to be more involved with the offense, too,” Sioukas said. “It's a wide range of talent.”Francis Lewis will experience a change this season as it will finally have a home field to host games on. But Coach Roger Sarmuksnis hopes one thing does not change – the results.”We are going for a repeat this year,” said Sarmuksnis who would also like to see his team venture farther into the playoffs than it did a year ago.The Patriots return senior captain Angela Wooley and fellow classmates, sweeper Christina Flanagan and forward Jessica Aquilon. Francis Lewis will have to overcome the departure of forward Caroline Verna, but are hoping to get big contributions from junior midfielders Carina Subia and Jessica Molina. Cardozo coach Rich Parascos had high hopes for this season's team until three of his top players decided to skip the season and play on their travel teams instead. Parascos said one of them gave him an ultimatum that she could only practice three times a week, while another one was pressuring him to let her skip practices. Faced with a different team than the one he originally had in mind, he calls this season a “work in progress” and hopes to be contending for a playoff spot in May.He will be counting on sophomore Katie Mermelstein at center midfield and sophomore sweeper Christina Jacob as well as a team that returns everyone except two starters from last year's club that finished 8-8 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Sheepshead Bay. Bayside finished 13-2-1 last year, good enough for second in the division. Head coach Joseph Corrado has a decidedly different team this year, having lost seven players to graduation. Thankfully, junior Elizabeth Mardones is still in goal and sophomore Alex Knese returns at the center midfield position. Senior midfielder Angelica Carmody and senior forward Ashley Spellman are also back. The addition of the freshman Seena Sleem and Zoe Margulies should help offset the loss of so many seniors, which included Vanessa Dalessandro, Adriana Giandans and Felicia Bunbury.”The season should be interesting,” Corrado said. Newtown played all of last year without a home field and finished with a 6-9-1 record. But this year the Pioneers home field is finally finished and the Newtown players are enthusiastic for the start of the 2005 season. “We have been practicing since March 1 on our beautiful new field,” coach Eric Wozniak said. “Last year we didn't have the support of the crowd because we didn't have a home field, but this year everyone is supporting our team.”With returning players such as sophomore Evelyn Mendez and senior captain Paola Medina playing midfield in a 4-4-2 formation, expect a lot of action on the offensive side of the game for the Pioneers this year. Mendez was among the scoring leaders in the division with 13 goals and 31 points, all which was done in only seven matches as a freshman. Mendez can expect a lot of nice passes from Medina who had eight assists last year. The defense, though, has taken a hit with the graduation of Astrid Portillio. “Portillio was the heart and soul of our defense, losing her is going make our defense a lot weaker,” Wozniak said. “But having 27 girls on the team gives us a lot of depth and possibilities.”After losing seven starters to graduation, young Bryant can only hope to be competitive in the PSAL 'A' division this year. Luckily, it has the help of junior forward Cathy Drizis, who her coach Pete Maliarakis calls “one of the best players in the city.”Her play and the consistency of the inexperienced unit will allow the Owls, who were 9-6-1 last year, to say afloat in the much-improved division in 2005.”The division is stacked,” Maliarakis said. “We just want to get into the playoffs and take it from there.”After a 12-2 record in the 'B' division last year, Jamaica is making the jump up to the 'A' division this year and is led by senior midfielder Rocio Hernandez, who is expected to “control the game,” according to Beavers coach Eric Chasanoff.The team, expected to be playing what Chasanoff calls “much tougher competition” in its new division, will need solid play from sophomore standout goalie Esther Charles and junior stopper Delmi Pott to advance into the postseason.”Unlike the teams that have dropped down (to the 'B' division),” Chasanoff said, “we'll be competitive.”- Evan Enden, Christine Sampson and Joseph Staszewski contributed to this story