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Cinelli said a recent change in careers has made it impossible...

By Dylan Butler

After leading the Holy Cross varsity soccer team to back-to-back CHSAA city championship appearances and winning the title in 2002, Dominic Cinelli has stepped down as the Knights head coach.

Cinelli said a recent change in careers has made it impossible to dedicate the time he had the past two seasons on the varsity level.

After running a potato chip route, Cinelli recently accepted a job at Unifirst, a uniform and linen company where he will be a district service manager.

“When I was self-employed, I was able to allow the time needed to coach,” said Cinelli, who announced his resignation last month to athletic director Ron Villar. “I didn’t feel it was fair to the program, which required a commitment for its continued success, had I continued if I couldn’t give 100 percent. I had no choice.”

Cinelli said the switch in careers, at this time in his life, is a no-brainer.

“It offers me more security. It’s more steady,” said Cinelli, 45, from New Hyde Park. “It’s a better fit for me and my family at this point in my life.”

But that doesn’t mean leaving Holy Cross was an easy decision for Cinelli.

“I feel like I’m letting them down. … I feel funny not playing more of a definite role,” Cinelli said. “But I’m sure they will still be successful, and I’m looking forward to watching them succeed.”

Following three years as the school’s junior varsity coach, Cinelli replaced the hugely successful and tremendously popular Paul Gilvary as the varsity coach at the start of the 2002 season.

Under Gilvary’s tutelage, Holy Cross became one of the premier soccer programs in the tri-state area. During his 14 years at the helm, the Knights won nine Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan championships, seven city titles — including three in a row from 1993 to 1995 — and back-to-back state crowns in 1999 and 2000.

Gilvary’s Knights also went a remarkable 55 consecutive league games without a loss, spanning six years.

But Cinelli didn’t feel pressure to follow in Gilvary’s very large shoes.

“I did feel some nervousness because it was the marquee program in the school, but did I feel pressure? No,” Cinelli said. “The chance to match what Paul had done was just not probable. I put that out of my mind. For me to try and target that would have been ridiculous.”

After Cinelli’s team struggled during the regular season his first season, the Knights went on a remarkable and unlikely run through the playoffs. Holy Cross upset Molloy, 2-1, in the semifinals before defeating Regis in the city final.

It was the win against Molloy, which was played in freezing rain and sleet at Kings Point, that Cinelli said is his favorite moment of his two years on the varsity level.

“I don’t think anyone gave us a chance and for us to put forth that type of effort under such adverse conditions, I felt happy for my players,” Cinelli said. “That was the pinnacle of my career at Holy Cross as far as being a varsity coach.”

In addition to his five years of coaching at Holy Cross, Cinelli also has been a coach in the Auburndale Soccer Club for 18 years. One of the personal highlights during that time was being able to coach all three of his sons — Dominic, David and Danny.

In fact, when Cinelli guided Holy Cross to the city varsity title, his son Dominic coached the junior varsity team to the JV city crown.

Last season Holy Cross was once again a favorite to win the CHSAA title and went 13-5-1 before being upset by rival St. Francis Prep in the championship match.

“I believe I was successful because the school has the resources that allowed me to be successful,” Cinelli said. “We had some of the area’s best players, played in two city finals, won one and lost one and we played for a state championship. I don’t know if I can call that anything but successful.”

As for advice for his yet unnamed successor, Cinelli said they should also avoid attempting to match Gilvary’s tremendous accomplishments.

“Try not to look too much into the past,” said Cinelli, who credits his wife, Jennifer, with being tremendously supportive throughout his years of coaching. “Go with your instincts and use the tools you have to prepare the players for the next level.”

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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