TimesLedger PSAL Soccer Coach of the Year: Ignacio Accardi/Robert F. Wagner

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Ignacio Accardi knew the task in front of him was great. After leading the Robert F. Wagner boys’ soccer team to its first PSAL ‘B’ playoff appearance in just its sixth year, the Panthers returned a mere five players and Accardi had to start from scratch with the 17 newcomers — many of whom never played organized high school soccer.

The result was remarkable. Robert F. Wagner shared the Queens B North title with rival Thomas Edison and advanced to the city semifinals where they fell to eventual champion Bushwick, 3-2.

For that Accardi is the TimesLedger PSAL Boys’ Soccer Coach of the Year.

“It was the hardest year in terms of what I had to do but it was definitely the sweetest,” said Accardi, who played his high school soccer at St. John’s Prep. “It left a very good feeling to finish the way we did.”

Accardi is the only coach in the budding program at Robert F. Wagner, a tiny magnet school housed in a former Macy’s warehouse in Long Island City.

Accardi brought up the idea of starting a boys’ soccer team to athletic director Peggy-Ann Jayne, who coached two — girls’ basketball and girls’ tennis — of the three varsity sports at the time. Boys’ basketball was the other varsity sport.

“Peggy-Ann Jayne is the model for supportive athletic directors,” Accardi said. “Any idea was met with complete enthusiasm and support. I credit a lot of my coaching success at Wagner to her.”

After scrounging for games in its two seasons as a club team, Wagner finally became eligible for league competition four years ago. Accardi built that group into a playoff contender and finally made the postseason last year where the veteran team fell to Lehman, the eventual city champion, by one goal.

“We lost a significant amount of versatile players who had a lot of experience,” Accardi said. “I had a lot of guys come out for the team who knew how to play soccer, but didn’t know how to play as a team.”

Accardi had to start with the basics, trying to erase some of the “park soccer” habits many of the newcomers — including 16 freshmen — had. After an early season 4-1 loss at Jamaica, the program’s worst defeat in three seasons and second straight loss, Accardi said the team changed its attitude.

“At that point everyone realized a lot of work had to be done to be competitive in the division,” Accardi said.

The team jumped on the No. 7 train to practice in Flushing Meadows Corona Park every day it didn’t have a game. The renewed commitment paid off as Wagner reeled off five straight wins, including a 4-2 win over Edison, to earn a share of the Queens B North crown. The Panthers then defeated LaGuardia and Campus Magnet in the playoffs before losing the semifinals.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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