By Joseph Staszewski
The city champions certainly aren’t getting the star treatment.
A season after winning the school’s first PSAL Class A boys’ soccer crown Aviation is without a home field to play on and is practicing as little as one day a week on half a field at a public park.
Even while on top, the Flyers know they don’t have the same advantages as some of the city’s top programs. It doesn’t faze them.
“We always have the Aviation mentality,” senior captain Jeffery Gad said. “We are underdogs every time.”
To make things even tougher, head coach Mario Cotumaccio has been away from the team for much of the regular season with his wife expecting a baby. He has only attended the first of the team’s five games, but his son was born last Sunday. Baseball coach Michael Fischer, who has seen his squad go through similar field issues, filled in during Cotumaccio’s absences.
“I miss him coaching us and telling us exactly what to do, but we have to deal with whatever we have to deal with,” senior goalie Andy Lucero said.
It hasn’t affected the team’s performance much so far, as Aviation is off to a 5-0 start. Still it trailed Queens Vocational 1-0 early before rallying for a 2-1 victory on Monday and only beat the Newcomers 1-0. Playing every game on the road means they need to be even sharper each time out.
“It is hard,” Gad said. “The team mentality has to be strong. Everyone has to be together.”
According to the players, it was Cotumaccio who made the decision not to have the team play at Con Edison Field in Astoria anymore, deeming the grass unsafe to compete on. Practices have become an issue, too, with the team working out on a crowded field at Bush Park in Woodside.
“It’s amazing,” Fischer said.
Cotumaccio only makes his group practice a few times a week, with many playing on club squads as well. The kids also get out at different times from school. Seniors are dismissed between noon and 1 p.m., while juniors don’t leave the building until 4:15 p.m.
“I have to encourage everyone to come to the practices,” Gad said. “Some people have a long school day and might not want to come.”
Despite its disadvantages Aviation believes it can make another run at a city title. It lost just two key contributors from last year’s squad that beat perennial power Martin Luther King Jr. in the semifinal and Susan Wagner for the crown. Luciano, Gad, Azzeddine Sekkat and Angel Serrano return, and will be aided by young stars like Stanley Sanchez.
“I still feel like we have the whole team to win the chip again,” Luciano said.
If they do so, it will be done the hard way.