Somers Takes 2nd State Title in 6 Years, Outclasses Field

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Tuskers Outscore Foes 17-3 in NYS Tourney, 12-3 at Final 4

By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
Members of the Somers soccer team pose with second NYSPHSAA title plaque in school history (2016) after running through tournament with a combined 17-2 edge, including Sunday’s 7-2 win over Amityville. ROMAN CATALINO Photo

From start to finish: It was like top-ranked Somers (22-1) was in a class all by itself in the 2021 NYSPHSAA Class A boys’ soccer tournament. From the depths of Amityville, Long Island, to the far-western reaches of Williamsville South, Coach Brian Lanzetta’s Tuskers outclassed the field en route to Somers’ second NYS title last Sunday at Middletown High’s Faller Field where the Tuskers were all business, with pleasure sprinkled in when necessary.

“Dude, they were like soldiers up there,” Lanzetta said. “Meetings, film study, curfews… just like Somers football. Both programs game plan and prepare like nobody and the kids are all in. The leadership our seniors showed was second to none. These kids were incredible leaders all season, and even more so in the postseason.”

The Tuskers, who last won it all in 2016, romped through the state tournament, outsourcing their four opponents 17-3, including Sunday’s 7-2 triumph of Section 11 champion Amityville in the NYSPHSAA finals. The Tuskers made short work of Section 6 titlist Williamsville South in Saturday’s 5-1 semifinal win, which could have been 10-0 had Coach Lanz not dumped his bench 30 minutes in.

“I don’t think anybody there could believe what was happening up there, not just our team, but everyone in the place was shaking their heads in awe,” Lanzetta said.

Somers G Matthew D’Ippolito, with help from Jack Van Tassell, slaps save in Tuskers’ 5-1 win over Williamsville South in NYS Final 4.

Against Amityville (18-2-1), which Somers defeated in the 2016 state semis and lost to in the 2018 state finals, nobody panicked when Somers fell behind early. The Tuskers responded in kind when All-Section senior F Bennett Leitner provided the Tuskers a 2-1 lead at 24:55 of the first half, taking a through ball from his kid brother Brady Leitner, shortly after Bennett Leitner rushed the left sideline and crossed to All-Section senior M Daniel D’Ippolito for the 1-1 equalizer. It was vintage Leitner, the kind of stuff he’s done for four years while netting 55 career goals and securing an All-Tournament nod.

Somers senior G Anthony Tucci (8 saves) made a lunging save at 12:20 of the first half to keep Somers ahead, 2-1, and it didn’t take long for Somers to counter with Jacques Verard heading home a cross from senior D Jake Riina with 10:13 left to play in the half for a two-goal cushion.

That became a three-goal lead when Leitner deposited a crossing feed from D’Ippolito with 28:33 left in the second half for a 4-1 lead, and perhaps the easiest of his 55 goals. Amityville answered in kind to cut the deficit in half, but D’Ippolito initiated a PK and sent home his own rebound for a 5-2 lead with 19:12 remaining in regulation for his seventh goal in the NYS Final 4. The underrated Verard added his second goal of the game for a 6-2 edge with 8:11 to go and the rout was on, yet again. The Big Dipper tacked on one final goal, his fourth of the night and eighth of the Final 4 for the final margin. It was the 52nd and final goal of D’Ippolito’s awe-inspiring high school career. Senior Noah Saks was a menace throughout the Final 4. Senior backs Aedan Hopper and Michael Micceri may not get the headlines some of the others do, but they were transitional magicians.

“Noah Saks peaked during this tournament,” said sixth-year Coach Lanzetta after winning the 100th game of his career in grand fashion. “Verard was insane. I just looked at him at one point and said ‘Dude, who are you right now’, and Hopper and Micceri were ridiculous. Without them, and Jake Riina, who gets the ball up top to Dip and Bennett? They get things going with transitional countering. They set things up for Dip to put three guys on skates, and for Bennet to be the athlete he is.

“Listen, we have the utmost respect for Amityville, but we were just on another level up there,” the coach added. “Our defense was young at the start of the season but they got better with each game. Tucci had some huge saves.”

Against Williamsville South, D’Ippolito scored four goals before halftime and might have had eight had he not taken a seat at the 30-minute mark of the first half. Dip opened the scoring just three minutes into the match and never ceased. The All-NYS-in-waiting middie drew a foul just outside the box and whipped home a free kick. Leitner then found leverage on the Billies defense nine minutes in to make it 2-0; a choice dance move with Verard and Hopper followed. Three more tallies by D’Ippolito was more than enough to put a bench under the starters and rest up for the big match less than 24 hours later.

“I’d never seen anything like Dip’s performance in a game of that level, in that setting” Lanzetta said.

The D’Ippolito/Leitner duo will go down in history with the Lucas Fecci/Jon Rinna connection as the most lethal pairing in Somers history, according to Lanzetta.

“They’re right there with each other,” Lanzetta said. “No doubt about it. Bennett really matured over his career and developed into a leader and a lethal scoring threat. Dip is up for All-American, and for good reason, but Bennett should be, too. They held kids accountable and were leaders by example.”

The only thing that stood between Somers and a perfect season was a late, regular-season overtime loss to league rival Yorktown. Outside of that, Somers played level or with the lead for nearly 95% of its matches.

“Amityville deserved to be nationally ranked and to watch Somers put on this offensive show tells me that they are not only tops in the state but perhaps tops in the country,” said Byram Hills Coach Matty Allen, president of the Section 1 Coach’s Association. “Teams shouldn’t be able to do that to other teams; at any level, let alone a state title game. The most impressive part of the run was how Somers’ defense and keeper play improved from the start of the season. They completely ramped up and were a different team than on September 1st. I was just as impressed as well with the changes after the Eastchester game on how they systematically fixed their defense. That’s a really impressive coaching effort.”

That’s a program that should garner national recognition, no ifs, ands or buts!

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