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Last updated
11-13-18 12:02 PM
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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), 2018 

STAC Finalists - 2008, 2018 

STAC Champions - 2008

#1 Seed in Section IV Tournament - 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 (shared), 2018 

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


Wednesday, October 17
Vestal comes up golden in second half of STAC soccer final

Kevin Stevens, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin Published 9:46 p.m. ET Oct. 16, 2018 Updated 12:50 a.m. ET Oct. 17, 2018


Call it a sweet repeat for the fellas from Vestal, who retained Southern Tier Athletic Conference soccer supremacy by avenging a season-opening setback.

Sophomore Mark Pradun provided the final goal with 15:57 remaining Tuesday night at Dick Hoover Stadium, pushing the Golden Bears past Elmira, 3-2.

Pradun accepted a feed ahead from Dan Mansfield and, mano-a-mano with Express goalkeeper Nate Burrows, popped one in to break the second tie on a chilly evening.

Mateo Lata and Mansfield also provided goals for the Bears, who’d not forgotten many details from a 3-2 season-opening loss to Elmira and denied the guests their first conference title.

Elmira, 2-0 semifinal winner over Oneonta, squared the match at 2 when Luke Baldwin converted a penalty boot awarded following boys being boys in the box with 21:01 to play.

Burrows, by the way, turned in one fine evening— and never mind the three goals permitted. This young man is a superior athlete, as repeated quick-twitch reactions to quality Vestal opportunities confirmed. Oh, and it would appear Nate can rise from synthetic turf with the best of them, and fearlessly at that.

Vestal, obviously frustrated here and there, was blanked through 50-plus minutes until counter-attacking off a thwarted Express corner kick.

Joe Gashinsky gained control and served one head for Lata, who caught a break when Elmira’s attempt to clear went awry and proceeded to carry on and launch a shot while advancing outside the left post. Wasn’t a ton of mustard on the shot— but the result was meaningful and necessary for Vestal to pull even at 1 with 29:15 to play.

The Bears went ahead a bit under five minutes later, Mansfield doing the honors from tight range.

“It was a ball lofted in the air,” Mansfield said. “It was coming back out and I headed it down. I didn’t know the goalie was out but he was out and it bounced up and over.”

Burrows hastily retreated to head off the goal, only to watch the ball slowly and anguishingly cross the line and settle into the back of the net.

Clearly, Vestal was sparked by the go-ahead goal. However …

With 21:01 remaining, Elmira was awarded a penalty kick. Baldwin went left against a goalkeeper guessing the other way and it was all-square at 2.

Then came the go-ahead strike by Pradun streaking down the middle and set up craftily by senior captain Mansfield. One-on-one with the keeper, Pradun made good for the difference-maker.

“I saw Dan and I saw the defense was trying to bring me offside so I had to run— it was the fastest run I ever made in my life,” said Pradun.

Thereafter, Vestal had a couple fine looks at insurance, only to have a leaping Burrows answer the call on one and the other venture a tad over the crossbar.

“They rallied each other,” Bears coach Dave Barr said of what was firmed up at halftime. “I let them talk and they talked, the captains and the coaches. We all put forth what we thought would work and it came through in the second half.”

He added, “That was great soccer. (Elmira coach Derek Hamilton) did a great job with these guys, they’re peaking right now. It was a great game, back and forth between quality teams. It was fun to watch.”

Ahead for Vestal will be the final of Section 4’s two-team Class A tournament, Oct. 27 against Maine-Endwell at the Wright National Fields in Oneonta.Elmira opened the season with that one-goal victory at Vestal — and led by three in that one — over an opponent that was unbeaten state champions in 2017.

“It feels really good. All of us trained really hard over the season after we lost and we wanted revenge against Elmira,” Pradun said.

And from Mansfield: “We didn’t come out very well, sloppy and just getting adjusted to the intensity of the game. At halftime, we decided that we really needed to pick it up and play like we usually do.”

Tuesday, October 16
Elmira Express boys soccer advances to STAC final for first time with 2-0 win over Oneonta

Photo by Star Gazette

Andrew Legare, Elmira Star-Gazette

 Goals from Cameron Kelly-Hobbs and Noah Sperduto carried the Elmira Boys soccer team to his first appearance in the Souther Tier Athletic Conferece championship game with a 2-0 victory over Oneonta on Saturday afternoon at Ernie Davis Academy.

Kelly-Hobbs scored off a Sperduto assist with 30 minutes, 20 seconds left in the opening half.  Sperduto's goal with 7:56 to play was assisted by Kelly-Hobbs.

We came out really, really strong, created two or three really full opportunities in the first couple of minutes and got a goal out of it," Elmira coach Derek Hamilton said.  "I thought we were unlucky not to get another one."

"However, that last 60 minutes of the game I thought was played pretty even.  Oneonta's a pretty good team and you could tell they're used to getting some victories.  The kept pressing.  Even when we took that 2-0 lead with eight minutes to go, they were still on us. They weren't going to give up."

Oneonta suffered it's first loss, dropping to 13-1.

Elmira (10-2-2) will face Vestal (12-3) in the championship game at 7 pm Tuesday at Vestal's Dick Hoover Stadium.  The game had been tentatively scheduled for Monday, but it was moved back a day because of stadium availability.

Elmira is seeking the school district's first STAC title in boys soccer since Hamilton's Elmira Free Academy team won in 2008.

Five things you need to know from this game:

Kelly-Hobbs Provided a Quick Boost 

Kelly-Hobbs put home a hard shot that deflected off Oneonta goalkeeper Brad Morell for his third goal of the season.

"Cam made a great late run through the midfield and got in behind the last defender," Hamilton said.  "Noah put it on his foot and Cam did the very difficult job of still finishing it with the goalkeeper breathing down his neck.  Fantastic."

Sperduot Struck Again

Sperduto's goal came after he beat two Oneonta defenders to get enough space to squeeze the ball into the net.  It was his 21st goal for the fourth-team all-state pick from last season.  Hamilton said even with Oneonta double-teaming him often Saturday, Sperduto was his typical impactful presence.

"Oneonta knew exactly what they were going to have to deal with with him and he still created our first goal, which just shows his unselfishness," Hamilton said. 

Burrows Was Strong In Net

Elmira also had a strong game in the back third, with Oneonta coming up with some quality chances to even the score before Spreduto's goal.  The last man back was goalkeeper Nate Burrows.  Hamilton said goalie can often be a thankless job, with one goal allowed providing more visibility than 10 saves.  On Saturday, Hamilton was thankful for the job Burrows did.

"We called on him two or three times today and he came up big all two or three times," Hamilton said.  "He kept us in the lead and that's what we needed out of him today."

 Baldwin Provided Help to Back End

Another key for Elmira was moving midfielder Luke Baldwin to centerback with about 15 minutes remaining.  Hamilton described Baldwin as a "wild card" for the team, offering another top offensive force along with Sperduto, while also having the versatility to play all over the field.

"With 15 minutes to go, we were holding that lead, Oneonta looks like they're pressing a bit," Hamilton said.  "We move him back to centerback and he is just a calming influence for us.  He wins everything in the air and it's nice to be able to rely on him, as well as Zach (Odum), Max Odom, Anthony Manzari, Jakub Ziembicki, as well as Nate Burrows.  They're just a solid back five and six when we play them." 

Win Sets Up Rematch

Elmira opened the season with a 3-2 victory on the road over Vestal, which last season went unbeaten and won the Class A state championship.  Hamilton expects the Golden Bears will be primed for a rematch.

"Vestal's a great team," Hamilton said.  "They've only lost one other STAC game, that was to Maine-Endwell.  We were lucky enough to knock them off game one.  I'm sure they've been circling that on their schedule.  As soon as they knew we had a chance to meet them in the game, I'm sure they'd want to see us to avenge that loss." 

Photo by Star Gazette

Friday, October 5
Elmira boys win against Binghamton and wait as they pursue STAC West soccer title

Photo by Star Gazette

Andrew Legare, Elmira Star-Gazette Published 8:18 p.m. ET Oct. 4, 2018 Updated 9:17 p.m. ET Oct. 4, 2018

 Noah Sperduto continued his brilliant junior season with three goals Thursday afternoon as the Elmira boys soccer team put itself on the doorstep of the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division title with a 4-1 home win over Binghamton at Ernie Davis Academy.

The Express finished the regular season 9-2-3 overall and 8-2-3 in STAC play, giving them a conference point total of 27 (three for a win, one for a tie). For Elmira not to win the division, Horseheads (5-2-3) would have to win its three remaining regular-season games and beat the Express in a tiebreaker.

Here are some key points from this game:

Elmira now waits

The Express could clinch the division title as soon as Friday if Horseheads doesn't beat Corning in their 4:30 p.m. game at Horseheads High School. The contest was originally scheduled for Thursday before rain and field conditions caused it to be postponed. Horseheads has another makeup at 7 p.m. Saturday at Binghamton before hosting Maine-Endwell on Oct. 9.

If you're Elmira, it's a tricky situation.

"You want to go and watch these games, but it’s hard to cheer against teams because you’re friends with coaches and players," Elmira coach Derek Hamilton said. "We’ll be certainly hoping for a result that will be in our favor."

 Express rebounds after loss

Elmira, ranked as high as No. 3 in Class AA at one point by the New York State Sportswriters Association. ended a three-game winless streak that included a scoreless tie against Horseheads and losses to Maine-Endwell and Ithaca. Elmira fell at Ithaca, 3-0, on Wednesday night after that game was pushed back a day because of rain.

"You always want to end (the regular season) on a winning note, especially going into bigger games in the postseason," Hamilton said. "Not just scoring four goals. That’s nice, but playing well I think is the more important thing at this point. You can play well and win 1-0 and I’m still content with it. Just beginning to get our momentum back and our mojo back is big for us I think."

Sperduto, Baldwin lead scoring

Sperduto scored twice in the first half and used his dribbling skill to notch the only goal of the second half to reach 20 goals this season. That follows a sophomore year in which he scored 17 times and earned fourth-team all-state honors.

Baldwin gave Elmira a 3-1 advantage with a 28-yard blast into the left side of the net with 7:19 to go in the first half. Baldwin assisted on two of Sperduto's goals, with the other Elmira assist coming from Kytrell Stroman.

"For the last week and a half we haven’t been at our best, that’s for sure," Hamilton said. "It helps a little bit getting some injuries recovered, getting Luke Baldwin back in the midfield. We created a lot more opportunities today and I hope we continue to do that going forward."

Top seed clinched

Hamilton said Thursday's victory clinched the top seed for the Section 4 Class AA tournament. Elmira will be home for a semifinal at a future date. Ithaca, Corning and Horseheads have also clinched AA playoff spots, with their seeds still up in the air.

Seniors honored

At halftime, Elmira recognized the five seniors on the team with a ceremony. Along with Baldwin, the other seniors are Jake Daubner, Landon Erickson, Jacob Mawhir and Evan Moore.

Patriots struck early

Binghamton had the early momentum Thursday when Liam Charles scored off an assist from Luka Rizzuto. Sperduto answered with back-to-back goals, giving Elmira a 2-1 advantage with 26:41 left in the first half.

The Patriots fell to 4-9.

Follow Andrew Legare on Twitter @SGAndrewLegare.

Photo by Star Gazette

Wednesday, September 26
Raiders, Express Play to Second Tie of Season


Andrew Legare, @SGAndrewLegare

 Elmira remained unbeaten this season in boys soccer, though for the second time this season the Express couldn't find a way to beat Horseheads.

The teams played to a 0-0 tie Tuesday afternoon on the artificial turf at Ernie Davis Academy's Marty Harrigan Athletic Field. Earlier this season, they finished in a 1-1 tie on Horseheads' grass field.

Elmira, the leader in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division, is now 8-0-3, with the other tie coming against defending division champion Ithaca. Horseheads' record stands at 3-2-3.

The goalies had a lot to do with the dual shutouts. Horseheads keeper Brendan O'Brien made five saves. Nate Burrows had six saves for Elmira.

Both teams had chances

Elmira had the edge in quality scoring opportunities in the first half, including hitting the crossbar on a shot.

"I thought we were really good in the first half, created a lot of chances," Express coach Derek Hamilton said. "We were a little unlucky not to get one. We had some cramping up in the second half, some fatigue. I thought Horseheads came back and played a much better second half than they did in the first half and equalized that mindset on the field."

Horseheads' top chance of the second half came from Riley Schwab, who struck the crossbar early in the half, setting off a scramble in front of Elmira's net that ended with Schwab sending a soft bicycle kick into the arms of Burrows.

The second 10-minute overtime session ended just after Carter McCreary's free kick from 30 yards away struck the football goal post just above the crossbar. Boys soccer uses a golden-goal format, with penalty-kick shootouts used only in postseason play.

"I’d say after the first 20 minutes of the first half, I thought we played excellent," Horseheads coach Mark Mucci said. "We had the ball down in their end, we had a couple of quality opportunities in the second half. They did too. They’re a great team, but we had the bar down (shot) that didn’t go in in the second half."

Elmira shut out for first time

Horseheads was the first team this season to shut out the Express, which is ranked third in the state in Class AA by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Elmira entered the game with 24 goals, including 16 from all-state junior forward Noah Sperduto.

Mucci said his players did a nice job preventing Sperduto and Luke Baldwin from doing damage Tuesday.

"We just try to play good, solid team defense," Mucci said. "We make sure we double down when we have the opportunities. We kept good shape today. We always made sure we weren’t flat and we had a good stagger and they had no free runs through our line and no free shots. … Just overall great team defense from the forwards all the way to my back line and my keeper. Great team effort. Very proud of these guys. I’ll take the 0-0 draw."

The Blue Raiders did a good job preventing Sperduto from finding space to unleash his big shot. They also denied him any breakaway chances, with Sperduto just offside on one potential such chance.

"They’ve played pretty defensive this year, making sure there’s numbers behind the ball to neutralize Noah and a lot of his touches were farther away from the goal," Hamilton said.

The turf factor

Horseheads is the lone STAC West team that still plays home games on natural grass, which can lead to a period of adjustment for road games. That was the case again Tuesday, though Mucci cited an early scoring chance as one of the best of the day.

"We’re always a little slow to get rolling on turf and kind of the same thing tonight," Mucci said. "Actually, we got out of the gate quick. I thought we were going to score in the first minute. We had a good opportunity where we broke through and Sal Evola fed Riley and we almost scored a minute into the game. We just missed it. But usually we’ve got a little catch-up on the turf, getting used to the play."

Raiders lose key player

With just under 29 minutes to play in the second half, Horseheads senior captain Connor Thorpe was struck by a teammate's cleat during a scramble in front of the Blue Raiders' goal. Blood was gushing from near his eye and the game was quickly stopped as Elmira athletic trainer Rory Fawcett ran onto the field to treat Thorpe. She continued treatment on the sideline before Thorpe left the school to be checked at an area hospital.

Mucci, who was unsure just after the game which hospital Thorpe went to for treatment, said the senior had a cut near the orbital bone of his eye.

 The bigger picture

With Ithaca and Corning also playing to a 0-0 tie later Tuesday, Elmira maintained its six-point lead on Ithaca in the division standings. Teams receive three points in the standings for a win and one point for a tie. The Express has three regular-season games left and still boasts an unbeaten record.

"That's the positive I gave the kids after the game," Hamilton said. "I said, 'Listen, we're still undefeated and they can't take that away from us.' (Horseheads) is a team we might see in sectionals. We've just got to continue to improve and make sure we're playing our best soccer when we get to that point."

Horseheads is still trying to play its way into sectionals. To qualify, teams must have a .400 overall winning percentage or a .500 percentage against teams in their own class. The three ties don't factor into the percentage, so Horseheads' currently has a .600 winning percentage with six games to play. The Blue Raiders are 1-1-3 against Class AA opponents.

Up next

Horseheads is home against Ithaca at 5 p.m. Thursday. Elmira is also home Thursday, with the start time against Maine-Endwell at 4:30 p.m. at EDA.

Photo by Star-Gazette

Monday, September 10
Express Boys Ranked 6th In First NYS Boys Soccer Rankings!


New York State Public High School Athletic Association 
In association with the ... New York State Sportswriter Association
                         WEEK #1 
   Sunday September 9, 2018   

1 Clarence-6 4-0-0
2 Bethlehem-2 6-0-0
3 Commack-11 2-0-0
4 Baldwinsville-3 5-0-0
5 Syosset-8 1-0-1
6 Elmira-4 4-0-1
7 Monroe Woodbury-9 2-1-0
8 Frontier-6 6-0-0
9 Brentwood-11 0-1-0
10 Hilton-5 4-0-0
11 Washingtonville-9 3-0-0
12 New Rochelle-1 2-0-0
13 Smithtown West-11 1-0-0
14 Ossining-1 3-0-0
15 Liverpool-3 3-1-0
16 Fairport-5 4-1-0
17 Hicksville-8 1-1-0
18 Albany-2 3-1-0
19 Newfield-11 3-0-0
20 Christian Brothers Academy-2 4-1-0
1 Queensbury-2 5-1-0
2 Vestal-4 4-1-0
3 Yorktown-1 4-0-0
4 Williamsville East-6 5-0-0
5 Lawrence-8 2-0-0
6 Hauppauge-11  3-0-0
7 Cornwall-9 4-1-0
8 Churchville Chili-5 3-1-0
9 East Syracuse Minoa-3 4-0-0
10 Amityville-11 3-0-0
11 Garden City-8 1-1-0
12 New Hartford-3 3-0-0
13 Half Hollow Hills West-11 3-0-1
14 Hamburg-6 5-1-0
15 John Glenn-11 5-0-0
16 Watertown-3 4-0-0
17 Pittsford Sutherland-5 4-1-0
18 Tappen Zee-1 2-0-0
19 Minisink Valley-9 1-1-1
20 Wallkill-9 1-1-0

Wednesday, September 5
Elmira Express Boys Soccer Coach Derek Hamilton Reaches 100 Wins

Photo by Star-Gazette

The Broadway show "Hamilton" has had quite a run for the last three years or so. For much longer, the coach Hamilton has had a nice run of his own guiding Elmira City School District boys soccer teams.

Derek Hamilton reached 100 career victories as a varsity boys soccer coach in the district Thursday with Elmira's 2-0 victory over Corning at Ernie Davis Academy's Marty Harrigan Athletic Field.

The milestone includes six seasons at Elmira Free Academy, which combined with Elmira Southside in all sports in 2011. Hamilton has coached the Express all eight of those seasons. He guided EFA to Section 4 titles in 2006 and 2010.

"It’s a nice accomplishment, but you can’t make great paintings without great paint," Hamilton said. "It’s just a testament to all the kids who have come through. My favorite part about the program is every big win or everything that we’ve done that’s a milestone, I’ll get 50 text messages from ex-players, or emails, or calls, or Facebook posts, just saying congratulations.

"To me, we could win 500 games; my proudest accomplishment is just the community and program we’ve built over the last decade and a half."

Hamilton was presented a plaque commemorating the achievement by Express Athletic Director Tom Morrell. The team signed a soccer ball and gave it to Hamilton.

Two years ago, Elmira girls soccer coach Zach Sarno, a longtime close friend of Hamilton's, reached the 100 victory milestone.

Noah Sperduto and Max Odum scored the goals Thursday, with both coming off corner kicks in the first half. Joe Bruner delivered the assist on the first goal, and Evan Moore assisted on Odum's tally late in the half. It was the first career varsity goal for Odum.

"I’ve been playing with Hamilton for a while, and he’s a really good coach, a really good guy," Sperduto said. "It means a lot to get him his 100th win.

"He’s talking about everybody in the past, all the players texting after every win, congrats and stuff. It shows he has a really good connection with his players and everybody likes him."

Defensive game

Without the set-piece goals, there were few quality scoring opportunities for the teams within the flow of play.

"We’ve played better matches, that’s for sure," Hamilton said. "But Corning was resilient, and they were really tough to break down. We took advantage of the limited opportunities we had. Most of the game was played between the 18s. Not many scoring chances either way."

That Elmira was able to score twice was a credit to the Express' strength on corner kicks. Sperduto's goal came when he back-footed the ball into the net after the ball ended up on the ground. Moore's low-flying corner kick went directly to the right foot of Odum, whose blast from about 10 yards out went into the corner of the net after it was slightly deflected.

"It just comes back to hard work," Sperduto said of Elmira's play on the corners. "The ball’s bouncing around the box, our team’s the first one to get someone on it."

Quick start

So far, so good this season for the Express, which opened the season Saturday with a 3-2 victory over defending Class A state champion Vestal. Elmira is coming off a 10-5-1 season that saw the Express finish as the Section 4 Class AA runner-up.

Hamilton said the team has exceeded expectations over the six days of the regular season. Elmira is home again at 4 p.m. Friday against Owego.

"I think we have four seniors, so we're a super-young team," he said. "But we've got some guys that can play and take advantage of opportunities they're given. We're putting guys in good spaces in attacking positions, scoring some decent goals right now, which is nice for us going forward."

Worth watching

Sperduto is among the top players in Section 4 and a dynamic offensive player. Last season, he had 17 goals and seven assists to earn fourth-team overall all-state honors in New York. He has three goals this season, with two coming against Vestal.

A potential fourth goal was denied Thursday, thanks to a diving save from Hawks goalie Griffin Huff. Sperduto had the attention of multiple Corning defenders whenever the ball got near him.

"It’s a kid I’ve known since he was eight years old and I’ve watched him mature," Hamilton said. "He went from this gangly, frizzy-haired kid to this man that he is now. It’s really nice to see him mature both as a soccer player, but as a person as well. He plays regional (developmental program), he’s really up there in terms of his club soccer in the off-season, and he’s super easy to coach because he’s a great kid, too."

Hawks seeking first goal

Corning didn't get the easiest draw to start its season. The Hawks opened the campaign Tuesday at home against Vestal and fell by the same 2-0 margin. Corning is hoping to break into the scoring column Sept. 4 at home against Ithaca, a state semifinalist in Class AA last season.

Follow @SGAndrewLegare on Twitter

Photo by Star-Gazette

Tuesday, September 18
Elmira boys open soccer season with win over defending state champion Vestal

Andrew Legare, Elmira Star Gazette

Elmira High came out of the gates flying, scoring three first-half goals Saturday on its way to a 3-2 victory over defending Class A State Champion Vestal in the opening game of the season for both Southern Tier Athletic Conference Boys soccer teams.

Joe Bruner, a junior making his varsity debut, scored Elmira's first goal off a header on a cross from Noah Sperduto.  Sperduto, a fouth-team all-state pick last season, added two more goals for the Express in the final six minutes of the half to give his team a three-goal edge at Vestal's Dick Hoover Stadium.

"We came out with a game plan and really kept our defensive shape pretty well and limited their opportunities,"  Elmira coach Derek Hamilton said.  "With a kid like Noah up front, he's going to take advantage of opportunities and he got two early for us."

Dan Mansfield scored twice in the second half for Vestal, with the second goal coming with about 15 minutes to play.  The Golden Bears, who had a 13-6 edge in shots on goal, pressured Elmira late, but couldn't get the tying goal.  Express goalie Nate Burrows finished with 10 saves.

"We showed alot of heart today," Hamilton said.  "We kind of deflected the last few opportunities."

Vestal posted a 20-0 record last season on its way to the State Championship.  The Golden Bears shut out 14 of their 20 opponents.  Elmira went 10-5-1 last season and was the Section 4, Class AA runner-up.

"Anytime you knock off a team like that that you know isn't going to lose many games, it really picks you up and makes you confident going forward," Hamilton said.

Milestone Watch

The victory was the 99th of his career for Hamilton between his time coaching Elmira Free Academy and the Express.  His team will try to give him No. 100 when it hosts Owego at 4:00 pm Tuesday at Ernie Davis Academy's Marty Harrigan Athletic Field. 

Wednesday, September 5
Elmira Still Boasts Offensive Firepower

Photo by Star-Gazette

Elmira was good enough in 2017 to beat Class AA state semifinalist Ithaca during the regular season and make it to the sectional final before falling to that same Little Red team.

The goal now is to make it back-to-back strong seasons. The potential is there for another highlight-filled fall, veteran head coach Derek Hamilton said.

"I think the talent level is still good," he said. "I believe we had eight or nine seniors last year that really helped us out. Replacing those numbers is going to be difficult, but the talent level is still there, the effort’s still there. It’s just getting those younger players acclimated to the varsity physicality and speed of play that’s going to be the biggest obstacle for us."

Offensive firepower

That talent includes junior forward Noah Sperduto, who last season had 17 goals and seven assists. He was a fourth-team all-state pick and a Southern Tier Athletic Conference all-conference choice.

Also back is senior Luke Baldwin, another all-conference player a year ago. Senior midfielder Evan Moore, and junior midfielders Jakub Ziembicki and Cameron Kelly-Hobbs, are also key returners.

"We’re super strong up the middle," Hamilton said. "We’ve got three kids returning for us who are great players. Noah Sperduto made all-state last year and led the conference in goals. Luke Baldwin made all-conference at center back. We’re moving him to midfield. Evan Moore is one of the more technically strong players. Between those three, we’re super strong right up the middle."

Baldwin likes the team's scoring potential.

"Our strength is definitely offense," he said. "We’ve got a lot of guys who have a lot of skill up top and our midfield is pretty solid. We’re just looking forward to getting some shots on frame."

Mix of veterans and newcomers

Among the new talent to watch are brothers Max and Zach Odom, both junior defenders. They're joined by three additions who could make a strong impact: sophomore forward Kytrell Stroman, freshman defender Anthony Manzari and freshman midfielder Talon Wise.

Hamilton said there is strong leadership within the team and the competition has been very good throughout the preseason.

"We only have five seniors and we’ve got a lot of young guys, but we’ve been playing together forever and our chemistry is just through the roof," Baldwin said. "We’re looking forward to great things this season and hope to keep winning."

STAC power

In addition to perennially strong Ithaca, the STAC also boasts defending Class A state champion Vestal, which went unbeaten last season. Elmira has the challenge of opening its season at Vestal, with that meeting set for 1 p.m. Aug. 25.

"It’s definitely crazy because the competition (in the STAC) is unbelievable," Baldwin said. "It’s through the roof. We’ve got guys going all over, committing to different schools. When we play these good teams, it just makes us even better. Because we learn from our mistakes."

Hamilton said the West and Metro divisions in the STAC will see several new faces after a strong senior class in 2017.

"Watching those kids develop should make for a great season of soccer," he said.

Follow @SGAndrewLegare on Twitter

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

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.

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