There’s certainly a lot of excitement on Brighton Road.
Maybe it’s the construction of the new second gym that is almost at completion, or the renovations to the Auditorium or it’s the brand-new turf stadium with lights a little more than a mile down the road.
This fall four varsity teams at Kenmore East will enjoy the completely renovated Sparky Adams Field, among them are the Bulldogs’ Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer teams.
Both teams practiced at the new facility for the first week of the preseason. The Boys will have at least four possibly five home games under the lights this season and the girls should have most of their home games there too.
Both sides have been impressed with their new home and look forward to playing games on it.
“The guys love it,” Kenmore East Boys Soccer head coach Rolfe Freidenberg said. “If it was up to me I would play on turf all the time because of that natural feel. I think having games under the lights will increase the excitement and crowd.”
Girls head coach Chris Robey is also excited about it.
“The turf is awesome, it’s a great facility,” Robey said. “It’s going to be really good playing night games this year. Hopefully it brings the best out of us.”
The Lady Bulldogs started the 2016 campaign off strong with two dominating wins, but when league play rolled around they weren’t the same team. They went 4-13 (3-11 in the NFL) last season, ending with a 1-0 loss to Lake Shore in the Class A2 pre-quarterfinals.
“The NFL is one of the toughest leagues in WNY,” Robey said. “We know that once league play starts we have to play our best soccer to compete in a lot of games. We worked hard last year but we didn’t finish. You can’t do that in our league.”
Leading Ken-East this year will be seniors Olivia Colby, Emily Caruana and Sarah Burhans. All three girls are in their fourth year on the varsity. Colby had five assists as a defender last year. Caruana had eight goals and nine assists.
“They’ve been in the program a while, so I expect a lot of them this season,” Robey said. “They have been playing a lot this winter and all summer. I expect them to be leaders.”
Starting in net for the Lady Bulldogs is senior Lyndsey O’Brien.
O’Brien made 188 saves in 2016.
Robey has been impressed so far with his younger players.
“It’s nice to see some girls who didn’t play much last year grow a lot, and some girls coming up from the JV look sharp and ready to step into big roles,” Robey said.
Seniors Katia Weeks and Emily Dellapenta also come back with major varsity experience.
Juniors Isabella Bona and Carianne McCarthy played on the varsity as underclassmen.
Ken-East is looking for returning junior Hannah Crittenden and senior Megan Smith to play more minutes in 2017.
They lose Haylee Ensminger and Hannah Parucki to graduation.
In order for the Lady Bulldogs to compete in the NFL in 2017, they must bring it every time they take the field.
“We need to play the best we can every day,” Robey said. “The girls worked hard over the summer. Now we have to step up and play our best. If we come out and do that we have a chance to win a handful of games.”
In 2016, the Boys had a strong season that ended with a 2-1 loss to Lew-Port in the Class A2 semifinals.
Freidenberg expects to build on that this season.
“We had a decent season with a mostly younger team,” Freidenberg said. “Going into the offseason I looked at 2016 as being a year to be able to build on. Knowing that these guys have another year under their belt makes me very excited for 2017.”
Coming back for the Bulldogs is senior Dylan Cunningham and junior Kyle Hofschneider. Cunningham was one of leading scorers for Ken-East last season.
Freidenberg is expecting Cunningham to be one of the best in the NFL this year.
“His skill is just top notch,” Freidenberg said. “I consider him one of the top skill players in the league.”
Hofschneider comes back after spending two years playing the Empire Academy. The forward made the Bulldogs’ varsity team as an eighth grader.
Hofschneider brings a lot of talent to strong Bulldogs team according to Freidenberg.
“It’s very exciting,” Freidenberg said. “His ability to beat players one-on-one is amazing. He’s a very talented player to add to your team at the high school level.”
Twins Franc and Papouch Schmoyer are coming back and will provide speed for the Bulldogs out on the pitch. Papouch helped break a school record in track last year.
Senior Brandon Guarino is playing for the Bulldogs this year. The senior transferred from Ken-West and had to sit out last year due to transfer rules.
The Bulldogs lose Brandon’s older brother First Team All-WNY goalkeeper Dylan Guarino to graduation.
Junior Jacob Cunningham, younger brother of Dylan Cunningham, will take his spot in net for Ken-East.
Overall, the Ken-East boys have high expectations for 2017.
“We know we have the ability to make a splash in Section VI,” Freidenberg said. “But we have a ton of work ahead of us. We have to go out there to prove it.”
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