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Last updated
06-21-18 08:00 AM
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Elmira District Boys Soccer
Derek Hamilton
(607) 735-3100 x4128
933 Hoffman Street
Elmira, New York

Welcome to Elmira District Boys Varsity Soccer!! Home of the Express!!

This is a site dedicated to the Boys' Varsity Soccer team for the Elmira City School District in Elmira, New York. The team is a member of the Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC) and participates in the West Division.  Elmira is also a member of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA).

NYSSWA Final State Ranking - 2006 (#10), 2007 (#19), 2010 (#16) 

STAC West Division Champions - 2002 (Co-Champions), 2007 , 2008, 2012 (Co-Champions) 

STAC Finalists - 2008

STAC Champions - 2008

#1 Seed in Section IV Tournament - 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 (shared) 

NYSPHSAA Section IV Finalist - 1988, 1989, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010 , 2013, 2017 

NYSPHSAA Section IV Champions - 1989, 2006, 2010 

                                        Southern Tier Athletic Conference

STAC West                     STAC Metro               STAC Central               STAC East
Elmira District (AA)                Vestal (A)                       Johnson City (A)                Oneonta (B)      
Horseheads (AA)                     Binghamton (AA)              Susquehanna Valley (B)        Chennango Forks (B)
Corning District (AA)              Union-Endicott (A)        Owego (A)                          Chennango Valley (B)
Ithaca (AA)                      Maine-Endwell (A)        Seton Catholic (C)                     Windsor (B)
                                                                                                                                   Norwich (B)


Friday, December 15
Express' Sperduto, Wise Named to All-State Team!

Andrew Legare, / @SGAndreLegare

Published 4:55 pm ET, Dec. 8, 2017 

Section 4 boys soccer had one of its best collective seasons ever this fall, with two teams winning state titles and another coming within a goal of advancing to the Class AA championship game.

That high level of play has been rewarded with 14 players being selected to the United Soccer Coaches all-state team. The group, formerly known as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, made its picks based on nominations sent through coaches who are part of the organization.

Leading the Section 4 selections is Vestal senior midfielder Parker McKnight, who was named one of the 67 boys All-Americans across the country and a first-team Large Schools all-state pick in New York. McKnight scored three goals in a 4-0 victory over Queensbury in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A final, capping a 20-0 season for the Golden Bears. McKnight finished the season with a team-high 16 goals and five assists.

McKnight was also named to the All-East Region team along with Ithaca senior forward Roberto Mier. From just over the border in Pennsylvania, Athens senior forward Ethan Lane also earned All-East Region honors.

Also earning all-state honors for Vestal was senior Corey Barr, a fifth-team Large Schools pick. He had 14 goals and 13 assists this season.

Mier joined McKnight on the New York's Large Schools first team after leading the Little Red to a fifth consecutive Section 4 Class AA title.  Ithaca advanced to the state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Rochester McQuaid, 1-0, in overtime.  The Little Red finished 13-4 and advanced to the state final four for the third time in four years.

Lansing High School, which won the first Class C state title in program history, had two all-state picks among Small Schools.  Senior midfielder Nick Parkes was a thirs-team choice and senior midfielder Jach Zajac was chosen to the fourth team.  Parkes scored the winning goal in overtime in the Bobcats' 2-1 victory over Byron-Bergan/Elba in the state final.

Elmira High School, which made it to the sectional final, had two all-state picks among Large Schools.  Senior midfielder Gavin Wise was named to the third team and sophomore Noah Sperduto  was picked to the fourth team.  Sperduto led Elmira with 17 goals and shared team-high honors with seven assists.  He scored three of the seven goals Ithaca allowed during the regular season and factored into 24 of Elmira's 37 goals.  Wise had seven goals and seven assists despite missing 2 1/2 games with mononucleosis.


Friday, October 27
Elmira Soccer Teams Chase Section 4 Titles

Andrew Legare, @SGAndrewLegarePublished 6:57 p.m. ET Oct. 26, 2017 Updated 1:21 a.m. ET Oct. 27, 2017

Soccer success is nothing new for Elmira, but this year's cumulative effort has been a step above for the four varsity teams in the city.

Elmira High School's boys and girls will play for Section 4 Class AA championships Saturday while the two teams at Elmira Notre Dame try to continue streaks of section supremacy. The combined record of Elmira's teams this season is 48-11-5.

All five Section 4 boys finals will be played Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus in Oneonta. Notre Dame takes on Oneonta at 10:30 a.m. in the Class B final and Elmira faces Ithaca at 1:30 p.m. for the Class AA title.

The other boys finals: Marathon vs. South Kortright at 10:15 a.m. in Class D, Vestal vs. Maine-Endwell at 1 p.m. in Class A, and Seton Catholic Central vs. Lansing at 1:15 p.m. in Class C.

Notre Dame's girls will try for a third consecutive sectional crown in Class C when they meet Trumansburg at 2:30 p.m. at Norwich High School. That will follow the noon Class B final between Waverly and Chenango Forks.

The Class AA girls final featuring Elmira and Corning caps the busy day of soccer, with a 7 p.m. start at Waverly Memorial Stadium. The game was originally set for 7:30 because it was scheduled to follow the Class A game between Vestal and Maine-Endwell, but that was moved to Thursday. Vestal won, 2-1, in overtime.

Admission at Oneonta is $6 for adults and $4 for students, senior citizens and children 10-and-under. Admission at the other sites is $5 for adults and $3 for others.

Notre Dame vs. Oneonta boys

Last year, these teams went through two 40-minute halves and extra time without a goal in the sectional final, leaving them as co-champions. Notre Dame ended up earning the trip to the state tournament with a 3-2 victory during penalty kicks, then fell by a 1-0 score to Syracuse Westhill in a state quarterfinal to see its 57-game unbeaten streak end.

The top-seeded Crusaders (14-1-1) aren't scoring at the same clip they have in some recent seasons, but they've allowed six goals in 14 games, with two of their wins coming by forfeit against a Waverly program that didn't field a team because of a lack of players. Notre Dame's loss came to Lansing, 1-0, in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference Large School final.

Goalie Caleb Colucci made a brilliant save Wednesday to help preserve a 1-0 semifinal win over Chenango Forks. Colucci has started much of the season in place of the injured Declan Sharma, a standout in last year's sectional final.

Second-seeded Oneonta (13-2-1) advanced to Saturday's final with a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Whitney Point and a 2-0 triumph against Owego in the semifinals.

Brian Adams was head coach for Notre Dame for the previous 10 years and is now an assistant for Kostas Varkatzas, who was previously the assistant coach. Adams made the move because of commitments related to his job but has, at times, run the team because of Varkatzas' schedule away from soccer.

"It's incredible," Adams said of returning to the sectional final. "We're a small school playing in Class B. I think we enjoy the opportunity to get there. We're definitely looking forward to that. They're not afraid no matter who they're playing. They're going to get a game whoever they face."

Elmira vs. Ithaca boys

This will be the second trip to the sectional final for the combined Elmira team, which started in 2011 following the sports mergers of Elmira Free Academy and Southside. In the 2013 Class AA final, Ithaca was a 5-0 winner over the Express.

Second-seeded Elmira (10-4-1) and top-seeded Ithaca (12-3) split two regular-season meetings. The Express won, 2-0, at Ithaca on Sept. 11 before the Little Red earned a 5-3 road win over Elmira on Oct. 4 after leading, 5-0.

Ithaca had a bye into the title game. Elmira held on for a 5-3 semifinal win over Corning on Wednesday after leading, 4-0, at the half.

The Little Red is seeking a fifth consecutive sectional title and is ranked 12th in the state in Class AA by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Elmira is not ranked.

"To split with them, that was a good result for us," said Derek Hamilton, who guided EFA to two Section 4 titles before becoming coach of the Express. "We know they're going to come with the best that they have and we're going to have to match that intensity and that skill level to get to that point. Certainly not afraid to play them, but we know it's going to take a good effort to get a victory against them."

Notre Dame vs. Trumansburg girls

Steve Weber is in his 32nd season as Notre Dame's coach and this will be the Crusaders' 20th appearance in a sectional final during that time. Notre Dame has won eight Section 4 titles.

A young roster has grown up for the Crusaders, who are led by 26-goal scorer Laurel Vargas, a junior forward who was a First Team all-state pick last season.

"We've had a lot of players step in and continue to improve all season," Weber said. "We’ve more than exceeded our expectations so far."

These teams last met in 2016, with Trumansburg beating Notre Dame, 3-0, in the finals of the Lady Crusader Tournament. Trumansburg's loss this year came by a 1-0 score to Waverly in the IAC Large School final. Two of Notre Dame's losses came to Waverly.

Third-seeded Notre Dame has played perhaps its best soccer in the postseason, earning a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Newark Valley and a 6-2 semifinal win against second-seeded Unadilla Valley. Vargas had four goals and two assists in those two games.

Top-seeded Trumansburg (15-1-3) advanced with a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Unatego and a 2-0 semifinal victory against Lansing.

Elmira vs. Corning girls

Top-seeded Elmira (12-3-2) is gunning for a fourth sectional championship in the last five years and a second straight one. The only other Class AA team to win a title during that stretch was Corning, with a 3-1 victory over Elmira in 2015.

Second-seeded Corning (8-4-3) played the Express extremely tough during the regular season, earning two ties by scores of 1-1 and 0-0.

The Express is led by senior Kendra Oldroyd, who scored twice Tuesday in a 3-0 semifinal win over Horseheads. Oldroyd has an Elmira City School District record 103 varsity goals, including 28 this season.

Oldroyd's keys to winning another title?

"Just playing the way we know how to play and keeping the mentality straight," she said.

Express coach Zach Sarno said Elmira's troubles have come when the girls don't finish their scoring chances, which plagued them in both games against Corning. The Express didn't score until midway through the second half against Horseheads, so that's another area of focus.

"We're going to have to be better off the get-go on Saturday," Sarno said. "We were well-prepared (Tuesday), but we got our legs stuck a little bit in the first half and we've got to be a little better. ... When you get to a championship game, bottom line is you have to be at your best. There's no room for anything less than playing a full 80 minutes."

Corning's defense was typically sharp Tuesday in a 1-0 semifinal win over Ithaca. The Hawks have surrendered 15 goals this season and have shut out three of their last four opponents.

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Thursday, October 26
Express Boys Top Corning For Class AA Title Shot

Photo by Star-Gazette

Andrew Legare, @SGAndrewLegare Published 6:18 p.m. ET Oct. 25, 2017 Updated 12:02 a.m. ET Oct. 26, 2017


A four-goal first half and a momentum-changing score from Gavin Wise helped send the Elmira boys soccer team to the Section 4 Class AA final with a 5-3 victory over visiting Corning on Wednesday afternoon in a semifinal at Ernie Davis Academy.

Wise scored his second goal of the game with 13 minutes, 38 seconds to play to reclaim Elmira's two-goal lead after Corning charged back from a 4-0 halftime hole. The Hawks scored three times in the first 22 minutes of the half to get within one.

Second-seeded Elmira (10-4-1) will face top-seeded Ithaca (12-3) in the championship game Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus in Oneonta. The time will be announced. Elmira and Ithaca split two regular-season games.

“We had short-term and long-term goals at the beginning of the season,” Elmira coach Derek Hamilton said. “Our long-term goal was to get to the section final. We assumed it would be Ithaca because they’re a great program. We’re at that point. We have two days to prepare. The kids are excited, I’m excited for them. What’s been a really successful season so far continues, at least for another few days, and then see what happens.”

Jan Ziembicki scored the first two goals for Elmira, with the first coming 3:26 into play. His goal with 17:06 left in the half made it 2-0. Noah Sperduto and Wise added goals for Elmira in the final 13 minutes of the half.

Corning, the No. 3 seed, finished at 7-7-2.

Hawks battle to the finish

Isaac Cornfield buried a penalty kick for Corning's first goal with 33:32 left in the second half to make it a 4-1 game. Seth Grottenthaler scored on a header just over a minute later for the Hawks, then brought them within one with a score on a rebound after a free kick with 18:36 to play.

Just like that, a game that appeared to be over was suddenly a nail-biter.

“We came out a little soft in the first half,” Corning coach Steve Mastronardi said. “Against a team like Elmira with finishers and creators, it’s hard to do that. We kind of fell asleep a couple of times. Kudos to them. They capitalized. But as I told them at halftime, you leave your heart on the field and with Hawks pride you come back. They did and I couldn’t have asked for anything more, getting it back to 4-3 and having three or four good chances to tie it.”

Corning also made some tactical changes, switching its formation to get more people up into attack mode.

“We had to take risks and be drastic,” Mastronardi said. “It worked for a while. They seemed to get into it and create opportunities.”

Senior leadership rises

Ziembicki and Wise each had an assist to go with two goals apiece. Sperduto, Zane Benjamin-Herchanik and Nate Forrest also contributed assists for the Express.

Wise’s second goal capped a big night for Elmira’s seniors.

“It’s a senior that took it into his own hands to make sure we moved on to the next round,” Hamilton said. “We had five goals and five assists and eight of those tallies were from seniors today, which is what you’re looking for from your seniors, that senior leadership.”

Hamilton said he knew Corning wouldn’t fold at halftime and cited the penalty kick as igniting the Hawks’ second-half surge. He added his players looked uncomfortable playing with a four-goal lead and it was vital to both regain a two-goal cushion and return the edge back into the Express’ favor.

“Those three consecutive goals, they put a shock into us and we lost our composure for a little while,” Hamilton said. “That goal allowed us to regain it.”

One last chance

As big a blow as Wise’s second goal was to Corning’s hopes, another key play came in the form of a diving save from Express goalie Corey Templar off a header with 11:30 remaining. That was the last quality scoring chance for the Hawks.

"Even in the end, they still didn’t give up when it was 5-3," Mastronardi said of his team. "A great senior crew. Good luck to Elmira. Great coaching staff, good kids. But the Corning Hawks are great, too."

History lesson

This will be Elmira’s second trip to a sectional final in boys soccer since the team was formed in 2011, following the mergers of Southside and Elmira Free Academy. Elmira lost to Ithaca, 5-0, four years ago in the title game. Hamilton previously coached EFA to two sectional championships in three appearances in title games.

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Photo by Star-Gazette

Friday, October 6
Ithaca tops Elmira, clinches STAC West

Andrew Legare, @SGAndrewLegare Published 8:15 p.m. ET Oct. 4, 2017 Updated 12:13 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2017

Ithaca scored the first five goals Wednesday afternoon and held on for a 5-3 victory over Elmira that clinched a fourth consecutive Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division boys soccer title for the Little Red.

Ithaca (10-2) led, 4-0, at halftime behind two goals from Michael Gualtieri and one each from Max Chang and Nathan Strominger. Andreas Lambrou added a fifth on a penalty kick just under four minutes into the second half on the turf at Ernie Davis Academy's Marty Harrigan Athletic Field.

"The first half, we had our game plan and we knew that we needed to win this game," Ithaca coach Gilbert Antoine said. "That’s why we came out fairly strongly to play them."

Noah Sperduto scored twice for Elmira, with his second goal bringing the Express (8-3-1, 7-3-1 STAC) within two with 17:07 left. That followed a brilliant goal from Luke Baldwin on a redirect of a Gavin Wise free kick with 19:58 remaining.

Ithaca bounces back

The Little Red was coming off a 1-0 loss to Vestal on Monday and also fell to Elmira, 2-0, earlier this season for its only other setback. Antoine said his team was more aggressive in the rematch with the Express than it was at home Sept. 11.

"We were taking shots that we did not take when we played them the first time at home," Antoine said. "We were a little bit relaxed when we played them at home."

Ithaca had some players out with injuries Wednesday. Antoine said he was happy with the way some players who are normally substitutes stepped up.

Elmira slow out of the gate

Elmira has scored five of the six goals Ithaca has allowed all season, but in the first half Wednesday, the Little Red looked like a team playing at a higher level. Express coach Derek Hamilton viewed it more as his team not playing to its standards.

"We didn’t come out the way we should have in the first half in terms of our intensity or being prepared to play, for whatever reason," he said. "But I think we saw how closely matched we are in that second half. Our goal at the halftime was to win the second half and we did that, three goals to one, and their one goal was a penalty."

Hamilton chalked the sluggish first half to the fact they're high school kids, but he said Elmira has to treat every opponent the same way, whether that's a power such as Ithaca or a team at the bottom of the standings.


Express makes a push

Ithaca's fourth goal came with 13 seconds to go in the first half and the next was on the penalty kick. Facing a five-goal hole in perhaps its biggest game of the season, Elmira got off the ground and made things interesting, starting with Sperduto's goal with 32:37 left.

"I just loved the way we showed a little resiliency, coming back and putting two on them and shaking them up a little bit," Hamilton said. "I think they were kind of cashing in a little bit and they didn't think we had two goals in us, but that kind of swung the momentum of the game."

Hamilton added Ithaca had the edge in possession time during what he called an evenly played final 30 minutes, while his players had the better scoring chances.

Antoine subbed some starters out with the big lead, only to quickly return to his starting lineup after Elmira scored its second goal.

"I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy win because Elmira, usually they fight hard," Antoine said. "The second half, I knew they were going to come hard at us. But one of our key defenders was out, two of them were out. It was a little bit shaky in the back. That’s why I think they were lucky and they got a couple goals in. But it’s soccer. Anything can happen in soccer. I’ve seen teams that are winning, 6-0, (and) the next thing they lose, 7-6. And Elmira’s a good team."

Wise returns for Elmira

The Express was bolstered by the presence of Wise, a senior midfielder Hamilton said last week was expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with mononucleosis. His coach and teammates were glad to see him back much sooner than originally expected.

"He was a big difference-maker for us today because he’s that one guy who can break teams down off the dribble in the midfield," Hamilton said. "He was electric today. He got himself an assist and we were really dangerous when we got the ball to his feet.

State rankings

Ithaca entered the game ranked seventh in Class AA by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Elmira is ranked 20th this week after it was eighth in the previous Class AA rankings.

Up next

Ithaca closes the regular season at Owego on Friday. Elmira is home against Binghamton on Friday and home against Vestal on Tuesday.

Elmira and Ithaca could see each other a fourth time in the Section 4 Class AA final, if they both get there. The Little Red will be the top seed for the tournament, with Elmira second.

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Friday, September 29
Elmira Boys Standing Tall After Growing Pains

Photo by Star-Gazette

Andrew Legare, @SGAndrewLegare Published 3:43 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2017 Updated 4:30 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2017

From a cursory glance, it might seem the Elmira High School boys soccer team has come out of nowhere to rank among New York state's top Class AA teams this season.

Last year the Express produced just three victories in 14 visits to the pitch, which came on the heels of a four-win 2015 campaign. The players and coach Derek Hamilton, though, were confident this season could be something special.

Part of that confidence grew from the manner in which they lost those games. Elmira played a staggering 18 overtime contests in the three seasons leading up to this one. One-goal losses peppered with ties were common for the Express. Frustration obviously came with those losses, but so, too, did belief.

That belief that things would turn around, combined with a commitment to outwork every opponent, has helped Elmira to an 8-1-1 record this year, with Wednesday's 2-0 road win over Horseheads giving the team an eight-game unbeaten streak as it battles perennial power Ithaca for the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division title. Ithaca is 8-1 in league play with four games left, while the Express has a 7-1-1 STAC mark.

The Express has jumped to the No. 8 Class AA ranking in the state from the New York State Sportswriters Association and is having the best season in its history, which dates back to the 2011 sports merger of Elmira Free Academy and Southside.

"The last two years we were saying to these guys, 'We’re so close, we’re so close,'" Hamilton said after Wednesday's triumph. "'We’re losing these one-goal games, we have all these overtime matches.' When we get to the maturation point we’re at now, with nine seniors, I knew we had a chance to be pretty good."

Hamilton admits some breaks have to go your way if you're to compile an 8-1-1 record in a talent-filled league such as the STAC. But skill and will have played much larger roles.

Senior co-captain Luke Baldwin said with the team's work ethic and experience he is not surprised to see Elmira's success. Nate Forrest, another senior captain, said the number of overtime losses and tough defeats in recent years provided a reason to think the talent was there to contend for league and sectional titles.

"We really play as a unit when we can," Baldwin said. "We talk and we string passes together. We defend as a team, we win as a team, we do everything as a team. That’s what we practice. ... We have a great coach, a great program. We just keep rolling. Keep doing us."

Making the transition from a team that works hard to a team that works the hardest has meshed with senior talent to deliver a brilliant first 10 games.

"Every single 50/50 ball is ours and we're putting 100 percent effort out there, more than other teams," Forrest said. "We're winning through pure effort."

 He credits the makeup of the players on the team with that determination.

When the Express was losing in the toughest ways possible, that group was also paying attention to the little details that cost them dearly at the worst time.

"We win some, we lose some, but we always correct what we've done from the losses and we just come back even stronger the next year," Baldwin said.

This season Elmira has a 4-1 record in one-goal games.

"In the last couple of years we've been giving up those goals or we've been on the other end of 2-1 losses instead of 2-0 victories," Hamilton said.

If there was one moment this year that added a jolt of confidence, it came Sept. 11 when the Express downed Ithaca, 2-0, on the road. The Little Red, two years removed from a trip to the state final four, entered that contest ranked eighth in the state in Class AA.

"They've got a lot of great guys on their team," Baldwin said. "They know how to play; they've always known how to play."

Now opponents are saying similar things about the Express.

"They hustle, they play well together, but the big thing is they're finishing their opportunities," veteran Horseheads coach Mark Mucci said after Wednesday's game.

As Hamilton pointed out, Elmira's players understand their roles and are living up to what is expected of them in those roles. Defense has been a focal point, with Elmira shutting out five of its last seven opponents. On the offensive side, the Express has received scoring contributions from numerous players and from all kinds of angles. Hamilton also singled out the play at center back of Alex Hill and Jakub Ziembicki, describing the pair as "rock solid."

Last week, Elmira's six-game winning streak ended with a 0-0 tie at home against Corning, whose 4-3 win Aug. 30 is the Express' lone loss. The Express lost offensive threat and co-captain Gavin Wise during that tie with what turned out to be mononucleosis. Hamilton said he will miss four to eight weeks, meaning it's possible Wise won't be back this season.

"That's a big blow for us just because Gavin's a team leader, team captain, one of our key players," Hamilton said. "But you could see from (Wednesday) we have people who are willing to step in and maybe play out of their comfort zone a little bit. At the same time, that expectation has been developed in terms of we're here to win."

Wise was on the bench Wednesday to cheer for his teammates and see others step up in his place against Horseheads.

"It’s really tough," Baldwin said of losing Wise. "He’s one of the most important guys on our team. Definitely hurts us on our offense, but we play as a unit and we make up for it. String passes around and we just keep playing how we keep playing."

Or perhaps even better. As much as he has enjoyed leading this group, especially having coached some of the players in the Soaring Capital Soccer Club since they were little kids, Hamilton said the potential is there for even better things.

"We’re playing pretty well right now," he said. "I’d like to continue to improve and make sure we’re playing our best soccer leading into those sectional games, where we can put a complete 80 minutes together. We’ve played well this season, I don’t think we’ve put a complete 80 minutes together yet. When that happens I think it’s going to be pretty exciting for us."

For now the 10-game start is plenty exciting. How Elmira finishes, though, will tell the final story of this year's team. The Express has five regular-season games to go, with four of them counting in Elmira's bid to claim the STAC West title.

"We’re looking for STAC West," Forrest said. "We’re trying to just win out. We win out and we beat Ithaca, we beat Vestal and we’re at our goal. Then we go to sectionals and we’ll take it from there."

Andrew Legare is a sportswriter. Follow him @SGAndrewLegare on Twitter.

Thursday, September 28
Elmira Boys Blank Horseheads

Photo by Star-Gazette

Andrew Legare, @SGAndrewLegare Published 8:17 p.m. ET Sept. 27, 2017 Updated 11:32 p.m. ET Sept. 27, 2017

First-half goals from Jan Ziembicki and Robert McCarick helped Elmira continue its pursuit of the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division title in boys soccer with a 2-0 win at Horseheads on Wednesday afternoon.

Both goals were assisted by Noah Sperduto and they helped leave the Express at 8-1-1 overall and 7-1-1 in STAC play. Horseheads fell to 4-7.

Quick start for Elmira

Ziembicki gave the Express a 1-0 edge with his blast 8 minutes, 14 seconds into the contest. McCarrick converted a perfect crossing pass from Sperduto with 7:17 left in the half to give Elmira a 2-0 lead that held up.

"They hustle, they play well together, but the big thing is they're finishing their opportunities," Horseheads coach Mark Mucci said of the Express. "We didn't give them much today, but they capitalized on what we gave them."

"I knew it was going to be a physical battle just because of how hot it was," Elmira coach Derek Hamilton said. "Ironically, we played a little better in the first half, when it was hotter. We were a little sluggish in the second half, when it was a little cooler. But we got off to that early lead. It was a couple of nice goals. We created a couple of opportunities in the second half, but the first half was definitely our better 40 minutes of play."

Express stays on track

Elmira was coming off a 0-0 tie Friday against Corning but still hasn't lost since a 4-3 setback to Corning back on Aug. 30. The unbeaten streak now stands at eight for the Express, which is in a battle with Ithaca for the STAC West title. Elmira has shut out five of its last seven opponents.

The Express has four league games remaining, starting with a road contest against Maine-Endwell on Friday. Ithaca, 8-1 after Wednesday night's 2-0 win at Corning, plays at Elmira at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 4. Ithaca's lone loss came to Elmira, 2-0, on Sept. 11.

"It was a big win – 8-1-1," Elmira senior defender Nate Forrest said of Wednesday's game. "We’re just going to keep on rolling, keep on getting wins, shutouts."

Robert McCarrick of Elmira chases the ball in front of Horseheads' Chris Enright during boys soccer Wednesday at Horseheads. (Photo: Andrew Legare / Staff photo)

Horseheads strong in second half

The Blue Raiders had their share of scoring chances and Elmira had just one more shot on goal for the game, 8-7. Express goalie Corey Templar had seven saves for the shutout.

"I changed things up in halftime because we weren’t playing well and tried to put more pressure on them," Mucci said. "Tried to switch up my formation just a little bit to help give us some more pressure in the midfield and give us some more chances to control the ball and work it through the midfield. In the second half, we kept the ball down in that end for a good chunk of that time. We just couldn’t finish."

Raiders chasing postseason

Elmira already has secured a berth in the Section 4 Class AA Tournament. Horseheads needs to win two of its final four games to do the same. Mucci is hoping the players' second-half performance Wednesday bodes well for how they'll play as they pursue a playoff spot.

"That’s the best we’ve played in a few games in that second half," he said. "I thought we kept them pinned in. We made better decisions, better choices, we hustled our butt off and we actually showed we wanted to win the game in the second half. I need them to show that for the last four games we’ve got."

Follow @SGAndrewLegare on Twitter.

Photo by Star-Gazette

Monday, September 18
Express Soccer Coaches Have a Lasting Bond

Photo by Star-Gazette

Andrew Legare - - @SGAndrewLegare - publisihed Sept. 15, 2017 


During their days as students at Elmira Free Academy, Derek Hamilton and Zach Sarno spent much of their time runnin accross Marty Harrigan Athletic Field playing for the Blue Devils boys soccer team.

Change has come with great frequency since those days, which saw the pair help EFA to three consecutive Section 4 finals appearances before graduating together in 1996.

Their alma mater is no more after EFA merged with Southside three years ago to form Elmira High School.  The grass field they played on has become an artificial surface.  Even the league in which they played - the Sullivan Trail Conference - is just a name most current athletes at the school wouldn't recognize.

Amid all the change, though, is a constant presence from  Hamilton and Sarno that connects past to present.  They are the only varsity soccer coaches the Elmira Express has had and have won a combined five Section IV titles ans coaches in the district.  Their teams have been exceptional this fall, with Hamilton's boys squad at 6-1 and Sarno's girls sporting a 5-1-1 record.

Of greater significance than championships, though, is the impact they have had on the lives of their students and players.  And each other.

They met in 7th grade after Sarno's family moved from Long Island to Elmira and have remained close friends.  They play golf and adult league soccer together, participated in each others weddings as groomsmen, were teammates at Corning Community College and maintain a bond that helps bridge together the boys and girls soccer teams at Elmira.

"Even though we're running two seperate programs, we really do run into each other every single day in the fall in one fashion or another," Sarno said.  "It's an honor to be able to say that one of your best friends is one of your coaching buddies and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Sarno, 39, turned around a floundering Southside girls team after taking over as head coach in 2007 and has guided the Express girls to three Section 4 titles in the past four seasons and five straight Southern Tier Athletic Conference West championships.  He has taught in the Elmira School District since 2002, spending the last six years at Parley Coburn Elementary, where he teaches 4th grade.

Hamilton, 38, started as EFA's boys varsity coach in 2005 after four seasons directing the junior varsity team.  By he second season, Academy had won a Section IV title, which was followed by another in 2010.  He has taught in the district since 2004 and has been at Ernie Davis Academy the last four years, teaching English.

Together, they have coached in the Soaring Capital Soccer Club and run summer soccer camps.  They also shared Hamilton's first sectional title, with Sarno an assistant. 

"We both got into coaching together," Hamilton said.  "Zach kind of got me involved in Soaring Capital in 2001, 2002.  The first couple of years we were inseperable, doing teams together.  Eventually they said, 'You're two pretty good coaches, you've got to break up here.  You've got to take two different teams."

As break-ups go, this one never took.

Soccer Connection 

 Sarno came to Elmira at age 12 with his family after his dad took a job working at the print shop at the Elmira Correctional Facility.  He ended up playing with Hamilton in the Soaring Captial Soccer Club and for three seasons with the EFA varsity team, which Sarno joined for the post-season as a sophomore.

Hamilton played three full varsity seasons and, Sarno says, he was among the best center defenders in the league and was the backbone of the team.  Their coach at Academy was Sam Kutchukian, the man who started soccer at EFA and won 341 games over 34 seasons before retiring in 1999.

This summer, Hamilton and Sarno had the chance to play nine holes of golf with Kutchukian at Elmira Country Club.

"It might seem minuscule to some people, but it was really special," Sarno said.  "I think we both look up to Sam.  I think Derek and I just try to emulate some of the things we learned from him and some of the things we learned from other coaches growing up."

Among those other coaches was Henry Ferguson Sr., who coached the two at Corning Community College in 1996 and 1997.  Ferguson now coaches at least twice a year against Sarno as the girls varsitiy coach at Horseheads.  Another coaching influance was Gerry Holden in the Soaring Capital Soccer Club. 

Sarno and Hamilton both later played at SUNY Oswego, though not at the same time.  Hamilton ended up getting his four-year degree from Elmira College in 2001.

Academy Becomes a Power 

Fresh out of college and just 21 years old, Hamilton ended up being offered a job as JV boys soccer coach at EFA by athletic director John Lesky. He took over as the third boys varsity coach in Academy soccer history in 2005 and helped the Blue Devils bring home a Section 4 title in year two.

Sarno said the 2006 championship season was a special time.

"To be there and kind of help him along the way with that, and to know all the players myself, was really nice," Sarno said.

Hamilton's 2007 team was ranked in the top 10 in the state and tied a Vestal team that ended up winning the Class AA state championship. Academy lost to Owego in the sectional final that year, then came back to beat Johnson City for another Section 4 crown in 2010.

Hamilton grew up in West Elmira and went to kindergarten with his wife, Denise. They have a son, 9-year-old Brody, and twin 6-year-old daughters, Hailey and Reiley. The support of his family is a big reason Hamilton is able to juggle so many balls, including coaching two under-10 teams and an under-13 team in the Soaring Capital Club.

His connection to community, school and his players is a source of pride.

"Just seeing the community I grew up with and had so much fun competing in and the friends I’ve made I’m still friends with, bringing my kids up in that same atmosphere is really special to me and my wife," Hamilton said.

So, too, is the relationship he has forged with his players.

"I’ve been to a handful of weddings just of ex-players who have come through," Hamilton said. "Kids are still staying in touch with me, I’m still staying in touch with the kids, whether they live in San Francisco or locally. Just getting together and playing and keeping in contact or being involved in weddings, knowing that I made an impact on their life 10 years ago to the point where I’m still being involved in their social activities and fantasy baseball leagues and weddings and stuff like that is really special and prideful to me."

A Southside turnaround

Last year, Sarno reached the 100-victory milestone as a coach in the district. That's even more impressive when you consider where the Southside girls program was when he took over in 2007.

"I think they had won one game in three years," Sarno said. "Within two years, in 2008, we were in the sectional final against Maine-Endwell at Cortland State. We lost to a great Maine-Endwell team but literally that year had five freshmen and a sophomore starting."

As more girls began to play club soccer and put time into the sport, it became a bigger deal at Southside. Girls soccer has really taken off since all teams at EFA and Southside were combined in 2011, with the Express' initial sectional title in 2013 a standout moment for Sarno.

Sarno is also proud to have seen so many of his former players go on to play in college, including seven currently. He added he's excited to have Amanda Murphy, one of his former players, helping him as an assistant coach.

The Express' success wasn't a case of a coach being in the right place at the right time. Sarno's leadership has been imperative in turning Elmira into a force, with last year's group losing, 2-1, in the state tournament to an Arlington team that ended up winning the Class AA state championship. Alexus Boorse, a senior on this year's team, said Sarno's positive outlook and commitment are appreciated by the team.

"Zach is one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable and organized coaches I've come across during my time coaching at the high school level," Hamilton said. "His commitment to his girls and his program, both at the club and high school level, is unrivaled. Parents and players alike are lucky to have him and he's been a massive part of their success since the Elmira High School merger."

Lending a hand

While the sports merger of EFA and Southside was not welcomed by a lot of people initially, it helped reunite Hamilton and Sarno as coaches.

"That was probably one of the defining moments when we did become the Express," Sarno said. "We were running the two programs instead of me being at Southside and him at EFA with the boys. We were the face of the program and still are today."

Both coaches, and the players, support the other team when their schedules allow. Sarno and Hamilton often turn to each other for advice. This past week, for instance, Sarno asked Hamilton if he had any ideas for a practice session and Hamilton responded almost immediately with suggestions.

When Elmira's boys struggled to win games in recent years, Sarno was there to offer encouragement, reminding Hamilton that down years come with the territory in high school soccer.

"To have that relationship and to be able to rely on somebody and bounce ideas and things like that, that's great," Sarno said. "I watch the way the boys respect Derek. They look up to Derek as a role model as well, just like the girls do for me. ... It's not about the wins and losses. It's more about the message we can send to our kids and I think we both try to do the best we can with that."

Said Hamilton: "Zach and I share a lot of ideals in coaching. He'll go over some things that work with his squad and I'll share some things that work with my squad. We kind of push and pull from each other's strengths."

The coaches play golf twice a week together in the summer, with their handicaps within a stroke of each other. During those times on the course, the conversation may end up being about family life, whatever else each has going on or just reminiscing.

"We're not allowed to talk soccer," Hamilton said. "We just have to be friends and play golf for that time. I think that's neat that we can kind of separate that as well."

While Sarno and his wife, Jennifer, don't have children, Hamilton is hoping someday down the road his twin girls will get an opportunity to play for one of his best friends.

"I’m going to (coach) at least until 2025 when my son comes through here," Hamilton said. "Then my girls will end up coming and playing for Zach, so maybe I’ll go help him for a couple years and the coaching carousel will come full circle.

"We started out together, we’ll go out together and I think that would be a pretty neat story if that ended up happening, if he ended up coaching my daughters after my son’s done playing and I’m right there with him right along the way."

Follow @SGAndrewLegare on Twitter.

Photo by Star-Gazette

Thursday, August 31
Nine seniors lead Express boys soccer team

Photo by Star-Gazette
Andrew Legare,
Good new for Elmira High School soccer coach Derek Hamilton:  He finally has an experienced roster.
Elmira's team includes nine seniors who will try to help the Express make a bid for the Souther Tier Athletic Conference West Division crown.  Last season, the Express finished with a 3-8-3 record.
Here are some keys as Elmira gets its season going:
Back in the Fold
Among those returning is senior defender Nate Forrest, who last year earned STAC Metro/West all-conference honors.  Two STAC West all-division picks also return: senior midfielder Gavin Wise and junior GK/defender Luke Baldwin.
Others with varsity experience include sophomore forward Noah Sperduto, senior defender Alex Hill, senior forward Jan Ziembicki, junior midfielder Evan Moore, and senior midfielder Zane Benjamin-Herchanik.
Welcome Additions 
Elmira's newcomber are led by sophomore defender Jakub Ziembicki, senior goalkeeper Corey Templar and junior midfielder Landon Erickson.
Working Overtime
Over the last three seasons, Elmira has played in 18 overtime contests.  Hamilton is optimistic some tough losses form years past will turn into victories in 2017.  
"We've played in 18 overtime games over the past three years but just couldn't seem to get over the hump and win those one-goal matches," he said.  "With both quality and experience on this year's team, we are looking to turn those close matches into wins."
Despite some down years recently in terms of record, boys soccer has a strong tradition in the Elmira City School district.  Hamilton, a head varsity coach in the district since 2005, coached Elmira Free Academy to Section 4 Championships in 2006 and 2010.  The 2010 team was the last one at EFA, with the school merging with Southside in all sports starting in 2011-2012.
For Starters
Elmira's first regular-season game is scheduled for 6:30 pm.  August 28 at Owego Free Academy.  Following another road game August 30 at Corning, the Express' home opener is set for 5 pm Sept 1 against Chenango Valley on the turf field at Ernie Davis Academy. 

Monday, November 21

Below are some of the best moments in EFA/Elmira Soccer history to have been caught on film:

--> Nick Lian (as a junior) scores one the best goals of his career in a 6-1 victory over Elmira Southside.  This bicycle is amazing and you get two looks at it!!


--> Ross Holden bends a fantastic free kick around a Union-Endicott wall to lead Elmira Free Academy to a 1-0 victory.


-->Justin Munson and Alex Varkatzas set the pace in a 3-0 victory over Owego in a New York State, Section IV, Class "A" Semi-Final match sending EFA to their third section final in five years!!



Thursday, February 7
Elmira's Varkatzas to play men's soccer at Binghamton University

image_name2 - Joe Mink - 2/7/13

ELMIRA — Soccer has always been in Alex Varkatzas’ blood.

His dad, Kostas, played professionally in Greece. And now Alex will be competing at the Division I level after he signed a letter of intent Wednesday at Elmira Free Academy to play on the men’s soccer team at Binghamton University.

Alex Varkatzas said he received a partial scholarship that can increase as he progresses through the program. He plans on majoring in business administration.

“I’m excited to join a Division I program,” he said. “It’s nice to be playing close to home.”

A senior at EFA, Varkatzas scored a team-record 29 goals last season as a forward for the Elmira Express, which shared the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division title with Corning. He finished his career with 64 goals, also a record for EFA/Elmira.

Varkatzas was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America boys all-state third team for large schools, which includes players from classes AA and A.

The NSCAA also picked Varkatzas as a Region II all-star. That team included top players from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The common theme from Alex Varkatzas, Kostas Varkatzas and Elmira coach Derek Hamilton is Alex’s love of the game.

“He’s willing to be committed to improving,” said Elmira coach Derek Hamilton.

Kostas Varkatzas, a defender during his playing days, said he started his son out at age 4.

“He started kicking the ball around. As a 6-year-old you could tell he loved the game. He did footwork from 6 to 10 and then joined a travel league,” he explained.

Hamilton recalled bringing Alex Varkatzas up to varsity as an eighth-grader for the Section 4 tournament. He ended up having so much faith in the youngster’s ability that he had him taking a penalty kick during the playoffs.

“He had a clean strike on the ball, and he was only 13. He knocked it home like he was 18,” Hamilton said.

Varkatzas is now competing on the Express boys basketball team. He said he’s played basketball since modified except for a season off as a junior because of concerns about possible injury. But he’s back on court, mostly for the conditioning.

Varkatzas said he drew interest from Syracuse, Bucknell and American University.

After college, Varkatzas said he’d like to go pro, perhaps even going to Greece.

His dad believes he can do it.

“Absolutely,” Kostas Varkatzas said. “But it will take lots of work.”


By Shawn Vargo Corning Leader

Posted Feb 06, 2013 @ 10:17 PM
Varkatzas Signs With Binghamton

Elmira’s Alex Varkatzas signed a national letter of intent to play soccer at Binghamton University at a ceremony at Elmira Free Academy Wednesday.

Varkatzas, the All-Leader Player of the Year as a senior, led the Express with 29 goals and five assists in 2012.

“This is pretty special. It has always been a goal of mine to go on to a Division I program,” Varkatzas said. “Binghamton is very nice. It’s good academically and being a part of a D-I program so close to home is nice.”

Varkatzas, who began his varsity career as an eighth grader, was a part of the final EFA squad, as well as a key cog in the new Express program. Among the other schools he was looking at were Bucknell and Syracuse.

“I think it will be a very good fit,” Elmira head coach Derek Hamilton said. “Their program’s style of play is very similar to the one we use at Elmira.
“Plus, he’s going to get a top-notch education, as well.”

Varkatzas plans on studying Business Administration.

Elmira District Boys Soccer
Elmira District Boys Soccer
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