Jericho used low seed as motivation
Derek Medolla and his Jericho teammates were preparing for a home game in the first round of the Nassau Class A boys soccer playoffs. They were telling friends and everyone at school to come cheer them on.
As co-champions of Nassau Conference IV with Roslyn, the Jayhawks were certain they would get a home game. It didn't happen. The Jayhawks were seeded ninth, meaning no home games in the postseason, and Roslyn got the No. 4 seed.
"We were flipping out," Medolla said. "We were preparing for a home game all week. We were hurt. We wanted to make a statement. We didn't understand how we didn't get a home game."
"We were shocked," Glenn Hyams said. "We used it as motivation. It was a chip on our shoulder. Everyone on the team said we would make it to Mitchel Athletic Complex and our fans would show up there."
They were right. Not only did Jericho win Nassau Class A, they won the state Class A title. It was the first outright title for the Jayhawks, who were co-champions in 2004.
It was certainly unexpected. Jericho coach Dani Braga was in his first year as coach. Even though he coached many of the players at the club level since second grade and had a good rapport with them, the Jayhawks developed quickly.
"What the kids have done surpassed my expectations," Braga said. "I figured we would do this next year."
There were so many things that didn't forecast a state crown. A new coach and a bevy of players who didn't play much last season. The Jayhawks started just three seniors, but had a lot of depth and used many players.
The Jayhawks allowed 12 goals in their first eight games. It was capped by a 3-1 loss at home to Roslyn. "At that point, they were more upset than I was," Braga said. "From there, they had a different outlook. They were resilient."
Jericho (16-2-2) went on to win the next 11 games. The defense of Ajani Motta, Jack Roberts, David Orr and Harrison Rieber along with goalie Ari Lewis held opponents to one goal in seven postseason games.
"I thought we would be a lot better than last year," Medolla said. "We all have a good relationship with Dani. We had a whole new team except for a few guys. Many of us didn't play last year. We had a great year. It was a great run. Hopefully, we can do it again."
The majority of the team returns, so it's certainly a possibility. For Hyams, who scored on a penalty kick in a 1-0 win over Island Trees in the Nassau championship, it was a terrific end.
"This was the perfect ending," the senior said. "We won 11 games straight to end the season. Every game there was a different hero. If they focused on one player, someone else stepped up."