With the soccer season drawing to a conclusion after Sunday’s state title games, it’s time to start thinking about postseason awards. I’ll be heading to the All-Section dinner tonight at Colonial Terrace, where they will announce the big school and small school players of the year, but I have a bit more time to make my decisions. If you ask me, the toughest one to call is Westchester/Putnam player of the year, where there are several deserving candidates. I’ll list the top four in my opinion, and then let you guys have it out in the voting.
• Jon Berry, Byram Hills: The senior forward started the season with a flurry and never really slowed down. The top scorer in Section 1 finished with a whopping 28 goals, often carrying the Bobcats offensively. The most impressive part about Berry’s season was that even after he started so hot and teams began double and triple teaming him, he still continued to produce. That’s the sign of a great player. A hard-worker who could score in a variety creative of ways, Berry made a huge leap in his senior season to become the most dangerous striker in the section. He led Byram to the top seed in Class A, and scored the team’s lone goal in a losing effort against state runner-up Port Chester in the section final.
• Jose Gonzalez, Port Chester: The senior goalkeeper was often overshadowed on a team filled with great players, but he was the backbone for the Rams’ magical run. As a junior, Gonzalez wasn’t asked to do as much with such a veteran group in front of him, but this year he was relied on heavily. In 22 games including the postseason, Gonzalez put up 16 shutouts and allowed just seven goals. Take away the state title game against two-time champ Jericho, and Gonzalez only allowed five goals all season. PC was undoubtedly the best team in the county, and although you could debate who the Rams’ best player was, coach John Cafaldo called Gonzalez the team’s MVP.
• Joseph Iraola, Mahopac: Coming off of a season in which the Indians failed to meet expectations and exited early from the playoffs, the senior forward was a man on mission. Not only did Iraola put up an impressive 19 goals, but no player in the section was more clutch. He scored four golden goals – including the OT winner against rival Carmel in the Class AA quarterfinals – plus a few others that came late in games to give Mahopac a lead. Iraola may have been the most explosive scorer in the section. He’s lightning quick with a big leg, which made him a threat from anywhere inside of 40 yards. After leading the Indians on a surprising run to the semifinals, Iraola will play at American University next year.
• Ben Seguljic, Blind Brook: With questions swirling about how the Trojans would compensate for the loss of 2011 small school player of the year Lucas McBride, the senior goalkeeper answered the call. Seguljic – known to teammates as “The Brick Wall” – led Blind Brook to a second consecutive Class B section title by simply not allowing goals. He went the entire postseason without allowing an opponent to score. Even when the Trojans were eliminated on penalty kicks in the regional semis, Seguljic did not allow a goal in a 0-0 game. With his big frame and long reach, the future Providence College keeper has physical skills superior to any goalie in the section, but he’s also extremely polished when it comes positioning and decision-making.
I want to note that the decision for POY will ultimately be made by me in conjunction with coaches from around the section, but I’m still curious to hear your opinions. Place your votes NOW!