No mercy: Molloy hungry to defend soccer title

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Sebastian Altomarino and Chris Zappel know nothing but winning soccer championships at Archbishop Molloy. As freshmen, they captured the CHSAA Class A junior varsity title and have won back-to-back varsity Class A intersectional titles.

According to longtime Molloy Coach Andy Kostel, that puts the seniors in rarefied air, joining “less than 10” former players to do so.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Zappel said. “We’re not cocky like we know we’re going to go out and win it, but we’re going to do everything we can to win it.”

It puts more pressure on the seniors to win this November, though Altomarino said it’s something he embraces.

“Ever since freshman year we treated [every game] like it was our last game and that’s how you have to treat it,” he said. “Every game is a championship game, every game counts. We’ve seen that throughout the season. If anything it puts more pressure on us as seniors to really win it and not leave Molloy [without a championship senior year].”

Beating St. Francis Prep at Belson Stadium in November is a distant memory. The two are more concerned about leaving high school with a fourth title than reminiscing about the previous three.

“It’s behind us and we’re just trying to start a new season with these guys,” Zappel said. “We can’t look back and see what we did then. It’s a new team and we have to look forward.”

Although the Stanners are the two-time defending varsity champions, they are not considered the favorites to win a third consecutive varsity title, which they last did from 1986-88. Altomarino is the lone regular starter on a squad that graduated three Division I players in Providence’s Greg Davis, Marist’s Joe Ruocco and Stony Brook’s Glenn Whelan, the Post’s New York City Player of the Year.

Rival St. Francis Prep, meanwhile, has nine starters back from a team whose lone league loss came in the title game, an overtime 2-0 defeat to Molloy.

“Every team has its attributes, but I think we have a really good core, a good chemistry and we understand each other very well,” Altomarino said.

Altomarino, who started at sweeper as a sophomore, should again anchor the Stanners defense, traditionally the strength of Kostel’s teams. While he’s the lone regular starter, there are several other players, including stoppers Connor Lisante and Stephen Buckley, as well as Chris Koulouris, Steven Villa and Liam Baker, who saw extensive playing time a year ago.

Molloy’s junior varsity team, which had 19 freshmen on its roster, made it to the Class A semifinals last year and a few of its better players will be making the jump to varsity as well.

“They’ve experienced enough,” Kostel said of his returning players. “I’d say six played in the state final. It’s not like they’re inexperienced players.”

One of the biggest questions Kostel is addressing in the preseason is who will be the team’s starting goalkeeper, following in the Ruocco’s footsteps.

Right now it’s a three-man race between seniors Dominic Delio and Patrick Kelleher and junior Ryan Vesey.

Kostel is also looking for fullbacks to fill the void left by Rocco Romeo and Sean Towey as well as competent scorers. Though Zappel played up front last year, there’s a possibility he’ll be used as an outside midfielder or even a fullback. The same could be said for Koulouris, who is speedy and dangerous going forward.

Then again, Molloy, the first repeat CHSAA Class A winners since Monsignor Farrell in 1998-99, also struggled in the offensive third last fall.

“We were scoring challenged last year despite us dominating play,” Kostel said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to put the ball in the net. We’ll find out.”

While Molloy has its share of questions before the start of the regular season Sept. 7 against St. Francis Prep, the Stanners are still the defending champions and that’s something Altomarino is taking seriously.

“Our motto is to respect everyone, but fear no one,” Altomarino said. “We respect every team from first to last, but we’re not going to treat any team lightly. No mercy. We are the defending champions and we’re going to treat it that way and defend our title.”

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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