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Holy Cross gunning at repeat of city crown

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The Holy Cross varsity soccer team seemed ready to relinquish its stranglehold on the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan last year, losing twice to Archbishop Molloy during the regular season and allowing the Stanners to take the title they had held for the better part of a decade.

But the Knights bounced back from whatever regular season problems they may have had and won both the Catholic High School Athletic Association city and state crown. It was the end of an era of sorts for head coach Paul Gilvary, who graduated nine players from his 2000 squad that went 17-4-1 overall.

“We’ve been very fortunate the last two years in that we’ve had so many good players,” said Gilvary, who has 15 kids from the last two seasons playing soccer in college. “To replace that kind of talent will be very difficult to do.”

The nine players Cross lost to graduation, Marcial Alzugaray (Kings Points), Alessandro Acquista (SJU). Jimmy Theodoropoulos (Hofstra), Paulo Acquista (Wesleyan), Michael Massa (Mt. St. Vincent), Anthony Cicero (Mt. St. Vincent), Tony Nittoli (Mt. St. Vincent), Rob McKeon (SUNY New Paltz) and Michael Higgins, now running track at Fordham, made up the heart and soul of the Knights last year.

Gilvary returns in 2001 with only three starters coming back to the fold, Jiva Milenovici, Andrew Isopo and Tamer Mohamed. Also back are David Curatolo, Ron Lehman, Michael DiMare and Matt Tyburczy, who saw limited time last season.

The Knights will also start three sophomores, Jeovanni Paredes, Paul Nittoli and Eric DiFulvio. Greg Sheehan and Danny Cinelli will share time in net.

“We still have good players,” Gilvary said. “It just may take us a little longer this season to hit our peak.”

Cross opens the league season Thursday against St. Francis Prep at Alley Pond Park at 3:45 p.m.

Molloy, which finished with a perfect 10-0 record in the league last year and the Brooklyn/Queens title could not translate that into success on a city or state-wide level. Head coach Andy Kostel is also returning eight players and just five starters from last year, but is still confident his team will make a push for the crown again.

Leading the returning Stanners are captains Johan Obgan, Keith Hahn and Mike Forlenza and key players T.J. O’Leary, Robbie Sardis and Gabriel Ortega.

“It’s a good team,” Kostel said. “Our biggest struggle will be to form ourselves as a team. Losing so many people we now have to readjust and basically form the whole team. But they’re good soccer players.”

Kostel, now in his 26th year at Molloy, will also rely on some new additions to the team to fill out key positions, though he’s not ready to give a full endorsement of his rookies just yet.

“It’s too soon to tell,” the coach said. “They’re a good group, but until I organize the team, I won’t know for sure. I won’t predict a perfect season, but we have a good team.”

Molloy kicks off the league season Thursday against the Xaverian at home in Alley Pond Park near the tennis courts.

Of the three Queens programs in the premier Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan ‘A’ Division, St. Francis Prep struggled the most last season under first-year coach Bill Turner. Turner has since stepped down and handed the reins over to 25-year-old former junior varsity coach Franco Purificato, of Woodhaven.

Purificato, who graduated from St. Francis in 1994 and now teaches social studies at the school, inherits a team that again may struggle against the league’s elite, but the newcomer’s positive outlook on the season may help Prep as the year progresses.

“We’re going to try to keep everything going that we started last year,” Purificato said. “We’re very strong right up the middle. We have some decent size also, which is something we haven’t had before.”

The key to Prep’s success will be center/midfielder Rolando Rojas, one of the lone senior on a junior dominated team. Chris Herrera and Marc Mattello are up from the junior varsity and are expected to be key contributors. Sophomore Nick Caputi will be the team’s keeper.

“It’s pretty much a junior squad,” Purificato said. “We’re very young.”

Prep lost its first pre-season scrimmage to Long Island’s St. Anthony’s, 3-0, but bounced back to win a preseason game against St. Mary’s of Manhasset, 6-1.

Prep will be tested right away in the league, starting with Cross Thursday and Molloy Tuesday.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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