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December 29, 2012
Sandy rips apart schedule, homes, but brings teams, leagues together

Miller Field of the Staten Island Youth Soccer League was devastated by Sandy.
Miller Field of the Staten Island Youth Soccer League was devastated by Sandy.
Photo courtesy of SIYSL, ENYYSA
An unscheduled event caused havoc and hardship among area soccer this past fall.

Super-storm Sandy caused billions and billions of dollars of damage, particularly to New York and New Jersey, and led to almost 100 deaths.

It also forced teams to cancel and postpone games and the seasons, as the soccer community rallied together to help itself and those in need after the devastation the storm left in its wake.

Sandy hit the area on Monday, Oct. 29, and continued through Tuesday, Oct. 30 but it's devastating effects have lasted much longer, perhaps for years.

The Long Island Junior Soccer League and Staten Island Youth Soccer League canceled the remaining weeks of their seasons because so many players, teams and clubs were affected by the storm. The Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League also postponed games.

"We feel that with all that has recently occurred, our focus should be on caring for our families and community," the SIYSL said in a statement. "As such, the executive board has decided to suspend the remaining games for the fall season. … While we have all been impacted by Hurricane Sandy, in some way, we felt that this decision helps ensure that members of our league are able to focus on more pressing items that require a heightened sense of urgency and individual commitment."

Added SIYSL president Bill Smith: “We’re trying to do what is right for the kids."

Miller Field in New Dorp were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The SIYSL has reached out to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation so that all their players will have a place to play next spring.

The LIJSL held a food drive at the Peter Collins Soccer Park in Plainview, N.Y. and the LIJSL office in Ronkonkoma. A total of 2,000 lbs. of food and numerous boxes of personal care and home-cleaning items were donated by soccer families.

“The generosity shown by our members across the island has been heart-warming, and our recent food drive is a great example of that, "LIJSL president Adie Mattei-Iaia said. “Our league office and board of directors will continue to work together with our member clubs to find the most effective ways to aid those in need. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been adversely affected by these recent storms."

Several LIJSL youth clubs raised thousands of dollars for relief, including the Hauppauge S.C., Deer Park S.C., Bay Shore S.C., Auburndale S.C.

Breakaway, a training organization that works with SIYSL clubs, hosted a charity indoor soccer tournament, “Staten Island Soccer Over Sandy.” The tourney was held at the Victory Sports Arena on Veteran’s Day and raised $5,000 for the Staten Island families most affected, including the Dresch family, which lost father George and 13-year-old daughter Angela. Clubs that participated were Notre Dame Academy, Richmondtown, St. John Newman, Silver Lake and Staten Island United.

Our Lady Help of Christians of the SIYSL hosted 65 teams on Dec. 8 in OLHC’s Playing for Angels tourney. This indoor-outdoor tournament was played at IS34, Angela Dresch’s school. A total of $10,000 was raised for Dresch Family Funds and OLHC Hurricane Relief. Every player received a bracelet and tournament T-shirt in purple, which was Angela’s favorite color.

While no one wanted to see the season canceled, it was the best path to take for many teams.

“I want to thank the LIJSL for cancelling the remainder of the season,” said Tina Sarnicola, one of the coaches of the Lindenhurst Lightning, a Girls Under-11 team whose community was affected by the storm. “Several girls from our team have either lost their homes or have suffered severe damage. We have so much to focus on here at home, just trying to get things back to normal.”

The team had some outside help. On Nov. 3, the Lightning was supposed to play the Manorville Starz, but the game was canceled. Instead, the Starz decided to give a helping hand.

“When they found out about the devastation in our community, their soccer families got together and put together donations for our community,” Sarnicola said. “Kristin [Mahoney], their head coach, drove out last weekend with an SUV load of donations. She drove out again the next day with donations, and they have also helped arrange a truck from Virginia to come next week with more supplies.”

Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association, also pitched in, promising $80,000 in aid to affected leagues and teams. To date, $46,000 has been handed out. Some of the donations included funds to the Richmondtown Soccer Club to help a family, $4,000 to the Petrides Soccer club to replace uniforms, repair a turf field and help a needy family, money to the Silver Lake Soccer Academy to help six families in need and $4,000 to the West Islip S.C. to aid families.

The association also gave a $2,000 donation to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation for super storm Sandy relief and a $2,000 donation to Bryan Kessler, whose sister-in-law died from carbon monoxide poisoning and the family lost their house during the storm.

The East Islip Soccer Club hosted an impromptu soccer tournament, named Soccer vs. Sandy.

"With the devastation and toll that Hurricane Sandy has left behind, many leagues have decided to cancel the rest of their season," a club statement said. "We agree with the decision entirely but also understand there are many who may want to play and also get involved in a relief effort to help those most affected. With that in mind, we have decided to put together a mini-tournament to allow our kids to get a closing to the soccer season and help out in the relief effort as well."

The Cosmopolitan Soccer League canceled games on Sunday, Nov. 4, forcing teams to play an additional week in December. Two CSL clubs lent a hand to relief effort. More than 30 volunteers from Yonkers-based Lansdowne went to Breezy Point, which lost dozens of homes to a fire caused by the storm. In Sunnyside, Queens, Shamrock organized a drive for blankets, clothing, non-perishable food and money for displaced victims of Sandy.

In an effort to help those affected by Sandy, the Adelphi men's and women's teams donated their time at St. Paul's to help collect items for the victims storm. The collection drive was spearheaded by men's coach Carlo Acquista and the Garden City Centennial Soccer Club.

The Red Bulls also got into the act as they made a donation starting at $250,000 to the American Red Cross, The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, and The Mayor's Fund for NYC Hurricane Relief to help local relief efforts in Sandy's aftermath. The team also donated half of its gate revenue for Thursday night's MLS playoff Eastern Conference semifinals match at Red Bull Arena and a potential Eastern Conference final home leg.

Sandy also affected the Red Bulls' playoff series with D.C. United. Because the New Jersey was still recovering from the affects of the storm, the first game was switched from Red Bull Arena -- which had no structural damage -- in Harrison, N.J. to RFK Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3. The second game of the aggregate goals series was scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Because of the switch, a freak snowstorm forced the postponement of that encounter a day until Thursday, Nov. 8. MLS officials, including commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott, helped RBA workers shovel snow off the pitch.

"We took the most prudent decision," MLS executive vice president of competition Nelson Rodriguez said. "We were very mindful of what the impact of what this nor'easter could be and we were also very mindful of the trauma that has been experienced by the region by Hurricane Sandy."

Despite the carnage and obstacles, there were some bright sides. Three Long Island teams emerged as New York State high school soccer champions. Many of the teams competing in the Nassau and Suffolk County playoffs were forced to postpone tournament games due to unplayable fields or lack of electricity. When the games finally went on, teams were forced to play one day after another to complete the schedule leading to the state tournament. There was very little wiggle room.

The Jericho boys team went on to capture the Class A crown and Port Jefferson earned the Class C title.

South Side High School in Rockville Centre, N.Y. won the girls state championship.

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