You’ll have to excuse Matt Kronert for declining to put heavy expectations on his Salamanca/Cattaraugus-Little Valley boys soccer team.
Kronert takes over the merged varsity soccer program after two years as modified coach. The War Wolves went 6-8-2 last fall and return experienced players at each level of the team: goalie, defense, midfield and strikers, said returning assistant coach Rochelle Redeye. Kronert said he’s been encouraged by the first weeks of practice, but admitted he’s not sure yet how to judge his team against other schools.
“I guess (it’s gone) as expected,” he said. “This is my first year coaching varsity. I haven’t watched a varsity game since I played 10 years ago, so I’m not sure how to gauge where we’re at compared to other teams but I definitely like where what I’m seeing so far.
“It’s hard for me to stack where I think we stand in terms of wins and losses, so I don’t want to necessarily jump out and set a win goal, but I think a winning season is more than within reach.”
The War Wolves started the season with two ties, 1-1 against Chautauqua Lake and 2-2 against Dunkirk.
The squad has 20 players, with a nearly even split of 12 from Salamanca and eight from C-LV, and an encouraging core of sophomores stepping into big roles.
“I think we’re returning seven or eight starters,” Kronert said. “The kids coming up filling those roles are going to be some 10th graders, which is nice, I’ve got some good young talent coming up.
“Talent-wise, we have a lot of talent, (we have to) put the pieces together. We’ll see.”
Sophomore midfielder Darec Funke and three seniors — goalie Bobby Steffy, defender Brady Hill and midfielder Caleb Reed earned captain’s armbands.
Succeeding Steve DeGroff, who coached Salamanca for four years, Kronert expects to play a more offense-heavy system, but wants to keep a balance.
“I know Steve played defense his whole life, he’s very defensive-oriented, I come from an offensive-oriented mindset, so we’re trying to find the middle ground there,” said Kronert, a Portville native who played at JCC and at a Division II Florida school, “but I definitely want to be an attack-oriented team if we can because we have the players to do it.
“Darec Funke’s our most skilled player,” he added of who he expects to produce goals and assists. “I’m really excited about him. Brandon Milanowski is returning and he was our top goal scorer last year. Neland Cummings is a young 10th grader, Reese Redeye is a really good young 10th grader. We’ve got a new kid who’s a senior this year at Salamanca, he came from Rushford, Caleb Reed, he’s a good leader.”
And with Steffy in goal, Salamanca/C-LV also brings back most of his defense.
“We’re only missing one (starter) on defense from last year,” Kronert said. “Justin Degenfelder is probably our top defender.”
Kronert had the chance to coach the 2018-19 sophomores during his run at the modified level, including Reese Redeye-Desposito and Neland Cummings, and like the progress they’ve shown in the last year.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Kronert said of the maturity of his underclassmen. “Some of them, Neland and Reese, in particular, they were my two best players when I coaches modified last year and just the improvement they’ve made, I didn’t see them over the summer, but just what they’ve done since last year is exciting.”