To hear Briarcliff coach Al Meola tell it, getting Tim Schurr on his staff was nothing short of a coup.
The Bears will have a decidedly different look to them when they take the field in 2009. They lost 13 players to graduation and along with them a lot of the teams offensive firepower.
But Meola has some steam in his strides this season and for good reason.
By bringing aboard Schurr, one of the most respected defensive minds in all of Section 1, Meola isnt as worried about what he lost from last year so much as hes excited about what hes gained.
In due time, once Timmy gets his defense together well be fine, said Meola, a 1992 graduate of Lakeland and former long stick at Elmira College. Once we get the players buying into his system, its going to be great. Every time we step on the field I see a difference. Were more confident, more fluid. Tim is an artist at making defenses amazing.
Many will concur.
Schurr was a great defenseman at Yorktown back in the day and later turned Somers into one of the better small schools in the state. Now the associate head coach with Briarcliff, Schurr brings a tough-as-nails approach to playing defense the right way. Meola said he often just sits back and watches in amazement as Schurr drills his players on the importance of always knowing assignments and playing with disciplined aggression.
There has been a difference in our players since the second they stepped on the field for the first time this season, Meola said. Timmy is just awesome.
Meola started the Briarcliff program as a teachers aide back in 2001. Hes coming off several consecutive winning seasons, but, oddly, has never had a player make the Hudson Valley Empires team — not that he’s losing any sleep over it. He seems very at ease with it because his players have shown a dedication to getting better from season to season, and because the Briarcliff feeder program is now “really taking off from third grade on.”
Weve put up some pretty good records so Im okay with not having guys on Empires. They have had great experiences playing travel teams in the summer, Meola said.
Briarcliff, which lost 7-6 to Pleasantville in last years Class C sectional quarterfinals, has just four seniors on the roster and will start nine sophomores. Meola said even though his team is young, he stopped short of saying it will be a rebuilding year. He still has talent on attack and is confident his top middies and d-middies will more than hold up their end of the bargain.
Briarcliffs top returning offensive player is senior attackman Mike Perlow. He will be joined by sophomore Chris Varcasio and junior Ryan Connery, two players who will have to make up for the loss of the Bears leading goal scorer the last two years, All-Section selection Eric Brandel, and the reliable Matt Levy.
Perlow will be asked to do a lot, but we have a lot of guys who can play now. Weve seen it in scrimmages. We make mistakes, but at times we look pretty solid, Meola said.
At midfield, Meola is high on short sticks John Haeling and Matt Tompkins, as well as long pole Brian Levine.
Asked what his players’ other strengths should be, Meola didnt hesitate, offering an answer that should make Schurr happy.
Goaltending, he said. Junior Greg Ellson has been looking really solid between the pipes. Hes been very solid in scrimmages. Hes done a nice job.
All the positive vibes aside, the questions remain: Should Briarcliff be expected to do some damage this season? Can the Bears hang with the Ryes of the world in Class C?
Id like to, Meola said. Its always our goal to be as good as Rye. They do an excellent job. They teach the game the right way and are always very classy.
Meola said his team performed fairly well last week in a six-team jamboree at Briarcliff, but added he should have a better feel for his teams potential Wednesday when it scrimmages Mahopac. The Bears will then compete in a three-team scrimmage with Lakeland/Panas and Section 2s Latham Shaker on Saturday at Lakeland.
Briarcliff then starts the season on April 1 at Clarkstown North.
As far as Meola is concerned, his teams youth isnt something hes hung up on. He said his players attitude and work ethic is already where it needs to be for them to be successful.
Our No. 1 goal is to play in June. Thats what were playing for every day. We want to get to the sectional finals if we can. Timmys winning background thats his mantra as well. He wants to get these guys believing.
Considering the guys they have blowing the whistles in practice each day, that shouldnt be too hard.
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