Redemption Tour: Boys Varsity Soccer Embark on their Journey for the NYSAIS Championship

All night long the student section kept the team’s energy up. As it became clear that Hackley would pull out the win, students lined up along the sideline and began to chant. When the game ended, the excited fans rushed the field and celebrated with their team.

If you were to turn right into Hackley School on Benedict Avenue and continue to the North Turf soccer field, you would find a dozen kids drenched in sweat in the middle of the New York summer heat locked in an intense kickaround. If you look even closer, you can see that these players are the core members of the Hackley Boys Soccer team. Why work so hard when all other students are off having fun? The answer can be found in the bio of the team’s official Instagram account, “Redemption tour.”.

Flashback to last November when cowbells and air horns deafeningly sounded off into the night as fans dressed in purple jumped over the barricade and onto the field to celebrate with their players. A chance at a first-place finish was just out of reach for the devastated Hornets as many fell to the ground in a pool of exhaustion and sorrow. The end of the road for Hackley came at the hands of the Masters School in a narrow 2-1 finish in the NYSAIS boys soccer championship.

The victory warmed the frozen hands of the winning Masters players as they clutched onto their trophies and mobbed one another at the center circle. As the stands began to clear and the daylight turned to dusk, captains Fritz Lauerwald ‘23 and Dan Paridis ‘23 shared an embrace after their team’s terrific run. In the interaction, no words were exchanged but in their sadness, both came to the realization they had one more chance next fall.

As teammates gather together for Hackley’s first official preseason practice, Fritz and the other captains survey the laughing and smiling players on the turf. Many familiar faces appear taller, stronger, and excited for what is to come. Some of the younger faces look around anxiously as to where they will fit into the Ivy League runner-up’s roster. Nevertheless, the returners and the new players all share the same expression as Coach Sawkins circles the team together. Not a single face in the crowd wants to end this season with anything less than a first-place trophy. With two weeks left until the beginning of the school year, they are ready to give everything they have to make sure nobody can stand toe to toe with the Hornets all season long. The crisp autumn air has a new smell to it down on the North and South Turf, a mix of perspiration and revenge.

Even with 18 returning players and a second-place trophy on the fireplace mantle, Coach Sawkins will have his hands full with decisions to make. With the loss of graduated seniors Thomas Degirolami ‘21, Stefan Darmanovic ‘21 Theo Saujet ‘21, and Callum Steward ‘21, there are numerous spots to fill in the starting roster. Lots of injuries occurring over the previous season led to many underclassmen players filling big roles to lead the team to the finals, but unfortunately, this provides the coaching staff with difficult selections for the squads starting 11. for the coaching staff provides them with difficult selections for the squads starting eleven. However, on the contrary, captain Fritz Lauerwald ‘23 believes this is their chance:
“We already have a pretty good team chemistry and our seniors have been playing together for years so we have high expectations for ourselves. I think after losing the finals last year we’re all super motivated and we’re trying to keep a high level of intensity in practice.”

In a scrimmage against King, the team tried out its new players — Harry Rosenthal ‘24, Jasper Lee ‘24, and goalie Tyler Gandelman ‘24. Philip Mahamedi ‘25 and Andrew Carpenito ‘26 both worked their way into the rotation as well. The game served as a chance to get rid of the nerves for some of the younger players and to shake off some rust that occurred over the long layoff since the end of the season.

The spotlight of the game fell on none other than JT Goswami ‘23 with two goals lighting up the field with passes that required countless hours of practice and veteran experience to see and make. After the game, defender Fritz Lauerwald ‘23 commented on the several injuries that kept some teammates sidelined saying, “I think like most teams a lot of our players are going to have to push through injuries to play this year. I don’t think it won’t be as bad as last year because our games aren’t as close together and we have more time to recover. Compared to last year, our team has much better depth, we have 16 or 17 guys that could all be comfortable starting ”

In a friendly game against Masters, Hackley got their revenge on the defending NYSAIS champs winning by a score of 4-2. Hackley was trailing 2-1 with less than twenty minutes left in the game when JT Goswami ‘23 and Dan Paridis ‘23 turned the tide for the Hornets with two late goals. Again injuries plagued the team with Fritz Lauerwald ‘23 missing the game with pneumonia and goalie John Churchill ‘23 leaving early after colliding with a Masters’ attackman.

When asked about defeating Masters, Dan Paridis ‘23 said, “It felt good but it didn’t feel satisfactory because we didn’t play their whole team. I want to beat them at their strongest. “ While most teams would be content with a win like this, this year’s Hornets squad wants more, redemption fueling their players. and it shows in their attitude in games.

It felt like a lifetime that Cliff Chapman’s ‘24 half-field goal was in the air, taking that took the lead for Hackley in their season opener against Riverdale. When asked after the game about the incredible shot, a shocked Cliff said, “I don’t even know how it went in, I saw the opportunity and took the shot and the rest was history.”
The 1-0 win was a defensive battle, it was also the first time Hackley’s starting line was put on display.

In Hackley’s second game of the season, a statement was made when the team came back from Randall’s Island with a 3-0 win over Dalton. Once again JT Goswami ‘23 and Dan Paridis ‘23 put on a spectacular performance with a combined 3 goals and one assist.

Days before the start of the season, news began to spread that the Boys Soccer would be playing in the closing 7:00 p.m. Sting Game instead of the football team. Many were confused, some upset, and others uncertain of what was to come. Now with hours prior to the game, the Boys Soccer team went to the trainer’s room to block out the noise and focus on the game ahead of them. Goalie John Churchill ‘23 spoke on behalf of the team while getting his ankle taped about their excitement to play in the closing game, “Having the night game is amazing and I can’t wait to play under the lights. I know the atmosphere is going to be electric like it was last year in the spring for lacrosse. Last year we really brought school spirit back with the march from the arch and I just want to continue to keep the school spirit rolling.”
When asked about the team’s confidence heading into the rest of the season, a group of players chimed in. ”Every team in our league is competitive and on any given day any team could win or lose. So every day you have to bring it.”

Hoarse voices after the long day of sports were renewed by the bright lights of Pickert Field. With flags, cowbells, confetti, and standing room only the student section was packed with such high energy unseen since the Spring Sting. The opening goal came from Cliff Chapman ‘24 off a pass from JT Goswami ‘23. The crowd went ballistic as the team ran over and took a picture in front of the student section resulting in a yellow card. The game was far from over as Horace Mann bounced back with a goal of their own tying the game 1-1. A go-ahead goal from Steven Li ‘23 off a free kick from Dan Paridis ‘23 took the game back into Hackley’s possession and Paridis pulled the game out of reach for Horace Mann with his own goal.

As time expired, fans rushed onto the field and mobbed their classmates as confetti sprayed all around. It was eerily similar to the events of last year’s NYSAIS Championship, but this time in favor of the Hornets. With all eyes on how the Hornets are going to bounce back after last season’s defeat, the team is ready to run the tables and take home the gold. With a lot more games left and a ton more to prove, the Hornets are ready to complete their redemption tour.