Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, most thought it was never even a consideration that the Yorktown Boys Varsity Soccer squad could have made it as far as the semifinals before barely getting knocked off by the future champions, or be as dominant as they were. However, giving in to criticism isn’t what Yorktown athletes do, and speculations certainly weren’t going to stop them from shocking the non-believers. Led by new head coach, Zoran Milojevic, the first new coach for the club in over 15 years, the team took on this criticism with vengeance, an urge to prove it all wrong. And as if the critics didn’t unite this team enough, playing for Yorktown only aided their passion for the game of soccer. “[The athletes] wearing that ‘Y’ on the chest, what it meant for them [is their] immeasurable love to the town and program,” Milojevic said when asked what the senior captains brought to the team. They were the backbone of Yorktown’s success, with Milojevic’s remarks only re-emphasizing that. He said, “If I could clone [the seniors] I would clone ten of them each… meaning incredible.” Then when asked what that ‘Y’ meant to him, without hesitation, he said, “I live in Somers, but my blood is green.” Despite some people thinking Yorktown didn’t have a deep enough squad or too much experience, he believed in them from the start.
So like all great coaches, Milojevic got right to work, utilizing campus facilities like the weight room and the pool to condition his players for the rapid-fire games that awaited them. In fact, they had played 20 times in the span of 50 days. I could hear the exhaustion in his voice when Milojevic said, “Professionals don’t do it and none of these games were easy.” All off-season they had trained by participating in events in the spring and playing in the summer league prior to the high school season. And as the season drew nearer and nearer, Yorktown was ready to put their hard work into action.
The regular season could not have gone any better. It started with the return of goalie, JP Frucco, who missed summer training due to injury. Milojevic spoke highly of the junior goalie, saying, “We worked a lot with him to get him improved and he’s definitely a leader.” JP’s progression, not only as a leader but as a player, was evident on the field as his expertise allowed Yorktown to surge to an undefeated record to open the year.
Then they traveled into Tusker territory. Facing one of the best teams in the state is never easy, but facing them in their house is near impossible, and Yorktown took their first loss of the year in a 5-2 affair. However down, they were certainly not out, and they proved their misstep was merely a fluke when they put up another 4 straight wins. Now it was Somers’s turn to travel into the cornfield. It may have taken nearly all 100 minutes of regulation and 2 overtimes, but Yorktown came out on top with the 2-1 victory on a George Popovic free-kick in the waning minute of the second overtime. “There was a big change in our energy level,” JP remarked after a crucial 6 saves to hold Somers at bay. Although it was never set in stone, both these teams had a sixth sense that they would see each other when the stakes were much higher. With both teams sitting at 8-1, there was one more game before the postseason. Yorktown came up big with another overtime thriller to beat Greeley 1-0, and after it was all said and done, they secured a share of the league title along with the arch-rival Somers Tuskers, as both teams sat at 9-1. “It honestly feels relieving above everything… That was our first goal before the season, so it feels great to accomplish that,” senior captain George Popovic told reporters. And just like that, Yorktown went from receiving doubt to dishing out dominance.
After the regular season ended successfully, Yorktown headed into the playoffs, “a new season” as Popovic called it, as the 3rd seed in Section A. They continued their triumph with a 6-2 wallop over Nyack and a thrilling quarterfinals game against Byram Hills, a game that featured 2 scoreless overtimes, 9 saves from JP, and a put-away goal from George Popovic to secure a 4-2 Yorktown win in penalty kicks. Propelled into the semifinals, they would once again face Somers. With the Tuskers ranked number 2, the Crop was once again headed east for the biggest showdown of the playoffs.
With a spot in the section championship on the line, Yorktown gave Somers every ounce of their fighting spirit to try and pull off the road win. Yorktown fell one goal short in a 4-3 heartbreaker. The Huskers headed home. Milojevic admitted, “I was barely holding my emotions at that moment, they were not. For those seniors, they almost didn’t want to leave… because they knew that that was it.” It is every athlete’s worst nightmare: facing the reality of hanging up the cleats for a team one last time. When Milojevic was asked if he had thought the team had the potential to be this good, without hesitation he responded “absolutely. I believed in this team going all the way… not just to the sectionals but to the state.” After all, it was never said to be easy, “Sometimes the soccer gods are with you, and sometimes they are not, ” coach said.
Overcoming each and every hurdle they faced to make it one game away from the championship, the Huskers put on an Academy Awards-esque action story this season. Zoran Milojevic exceeded the monstrous expectations as the new coach of a renowned Yorktown program and looks to be the perfect fit moving forward at YHS. Despite the tough loss, he has high expectations for the returning members and the near future. He said, ”We will go further than this year… I hope we can at least make it to the final sectionals next year.” Will his aspirations be met? With the talented and driven young men that play on the team that surrounds him, any realistic viewer would say his ambitions most definitely will be met. Although there may be some blues lingering in the locker room right now, the future of Yorktown Boys Varsity Soccer looks bright.