Acquista suffers first loss in coaching debut

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Baltimore, MD — With his team in a scoreless tie with No. 22 Loyola-Maryland during first half of their season opener Saturday, it seemed like new St. Francis College men’s soccer coach Carlo Acquista had years, not minutes, of college coaching experience.

From the 3-1/2-hour bus ride from Brooklyn to pregame meetings and the game, played against one of the top teams in the country, the Whitestone native didn’t look or sound like one of the youngest Division I coaches in the country.

“I’m comfortable because for me it’s soccer, it’s what I want to do,” Acquista said after his team’s disheartening 3-0 loss. “To be part of this game is what I want, but the bottom line is the kids have to learn.”

Acquista said he wasn’t nervous as the first game of his collegiate coaching career started. Some 24 hours earlier, though, it was a different story. The mundane details, like giving out warm-ups and practice jerseys, making sure there were enough sandwiches and oranges and insuring hotel and restaurant reservations gave Acquista some anxiety.

He’s been on plenty of road trips, but usually the former Holy Cross and St. John’s standout was seated a bit further back in the bus and his only major concern was whether to watch the video playing on the overhead television or catch up on some sleep.

“I like to be 100 percent organized and I wasn’t,” Acquista said. “It’s a learning experience for myself.”

Acquista and his staff, former Red Storm players Kurt Palmer, from Springfield Gardens, and Andres Gomez, from Jackson Heights, did their best to prepare St. Francis College mentally and physically for the game.

They showed tapes of the 2000 European championships, the 1982 World Cup and the Red Storm’s 1998 Big East championship game to get the players mentally ready.

After practice and dinner, Acquista held an emotionally charged hour and a half meeting in which Acquista first went over the game plan against Loyola-Maryland and then asked each person in the room what makes this game so important for them.

It was a page taken directly out of Dave Masur’s motivational tactics and the move appeared to work as the team, which had only been together for a matter of weeks, looked to be closer than ever.

And then, similar to his former head coach, Acquista mulled over the starting lineup, changing the 11 players almost a hundred times.

“I slept fine [the night before the game], the most nerve-wracking part was trying to put the best 11 on the field,” Acquista said. “I told Kurt and Andres to sleep on it and whatever starting lineup we wake up with, that’s what we’ll go with.”

Once he arrived at the College of Notre Dame’s Alumnae Field for the game, Acquista thrived in his element. He and his staff went through the pregame warm-ups like veterans.

Their team, a young group that no one expected to hang with Loyola, did just that for 45 minutes. The only thing that stopped the Terriers from going into halftime tied at 0 was a controversial diving header by Loyola freshman Vinnie Piscopo, who appeared to be offside.

“Once the whistle blew, we were pretty calm, watched and just wanted to see what would happen,” Palmer said. “The first 20 minutes, we were very unfortunate. We had chances to score, but the kids kept on and stuck to the game plan.”

The second half was a different story. St. Francis College, which tied the Greyhounds with seven shots apiece in the first half, strayed from the game plan and Loyola made the team pay. Piscopo added a second goal six minutes into the second half and Bill Law added a third goal in the 82nd minute.

While some may just chalk it up to inexperience, both on the field and on the sideline, Acquista did not want to accept the loss. There’s been too much of that in the past at St. Francis, he said.

“In the past the players and the coaches would always give up. I am not a quitter and I will never be,” Acquista said. “It is still early and believe or not it was a positive game for us. We will take a loss as a learning experience and worry about the next game.”

Worrying about the next game came almost immediately for Acquista. He was on the phone quickly, getting a scouting report on a future opponent. While his players had Sunday off, Acquista was off to Hamden, Conn. to scout Quinnipiac’s game against Northeastern, while Palmer went to Jersey City, NJ.. to watch St. Peter’s, St. Francis’ next opponent, take on Fordham.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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