- Last Updated: 12:29 AM, May 4, 2012
- Posted: 2:34 AM, May 3, 2012
Archbishop Stepinac put last season behind it quickly and definitively.
“The first game we won showed us that we can break the losing streak and get out of our slump and actually win some games,” senior midfielder Nick Shaw said.
The Crusaders suffered through a 0-19 campaign last season playing in the NYCHSAA Class AA division along with powers Iona Prep and Fordham Prep. They also lost three non-league games in double overtime. This year Stepinac is the team people are chasing, unbeaten so far in the Catholic ‘A’ league.
First-year head man James Goldman, who was an assistant a year ago, was most impressed with the team's early season two-goal loss to St. Mary’s. Stepinac is 7-6 overall, including a five-game winning streak. It owns wins over Xaverian, St. Joseph by the Sea, Tottenville and defending division champion Mount St. Michael.
“With everything clicking it’s a lot better for the kids to come to practice every day to know that their hard work has paid off,” Goldman said.
One of the biggest reasons for their success is the emergence of junior attack Spencer O’Toole, who has 31 goals and 21 assists this season. In the past the bulk of the Crusaders goals have come from midfielders like Andrew Murray. Dom Vallario, Christian Lopez and Shaw have also stepped up and scored more.
“He learned a lot from this year and he’s kind of responding this year,” Goldman said of O’Toole.
The defense is physical and intimidating led by freshman Dylan DeMuro, who has the job of marking opponent’s best attacks. Stepinac is also bolstered by the return of Caleb Gilligan-Evan, the school’s star fullback. He didn’t play last year to focus on football and will attend the College of Holy Cross next year. Goalie Bobby DiNapoli played against some of the area’s best teams and year ago and it’s translated into success for him this season.
“They all play football,” Shaw said. “They are all big strong kids. It’s the intimidation factor. A lot of teams don’t want to go to the crease. They will just be a little bit scared of our defense.”
Stepinac isn’t afraid of the challenges ahead. Those included a date with Fordham Prep this week and games against Iona Prep and division rival Monsignor Farrell, possibly for first place, still remaining. No matter what happens from here on out, the year has already been a success rebuilding the confidence and image around the program.
“It’s really going well,” Shaw said. “We are winning a couple of games and hopefully in the future we can move up and compete with those higher-up teams.”Follow @NYPostsports