After 2017 season full of ties, Falcons putting wins on board
By David Yarger
Last season, the Niagara-Wheatfield boys soccer team won four games and lost two, but tied seven times. Every game seemed to wind up in a tie. In 2018, ties are turning into victories for the Falcons.
The boys have started the season 8-1 overall (6-1 Niagara Frontier League) and have done so with a balanced attack of offense and defense (18 goals for, 5 against).
Niagara-Wheatfield coach John Coulter said this season's record in comparison to 2017 could be attributed to the roster makeup. The Falcons carry seven seniors, 11 juniors and one sophomore.
"We had a very young team last year," Coulter said. "If you look at our roster, we're still really young, but my sophomores from last year have moved up and turned into seniors - those kids who were 10th graders last year are playing like they're 12th graders this year, and that's helped us a lot."
Coulter added the roster generates a lot of offense in transition and that makes the team a dangerous group to face.
Usually in high school soccer, rosters will have one to two "superstar" players who score all the goals. The Falcons have a variety goal scorers, as seven different players have netted goals, including junior Jacob Vallas with six, senior Alexis Leon with five, Raphael Wence and Tom Mueller with two, and Joe Timbello, Andrew Ramballi and John Osetkowski with one. Coulter said having a deep roster with talent all-around plays huge for the team.
Andrew Ramballi dribbles the ball up the field during a match versus Grand Island.
"A lot of teams we face you're looking at one to two guys that you got to watch out for. We've got 19 of them, so were a tough matchup for a lot of teams, because of that," Coulter said.
After a 6-0 start to the season, the Falcons were handed their first loss versus Lewiston-Porter. The 3-1 defeat brought the team back down to earth a bit, Coulter said, and the team moved on from it with a 2-0 victory over Grand Island - the team's first win over the Vikings since 2015.
"I feel like we kind of got that undefeated monkey off our back," Coulter said. "Once you get that loss over with, it's done, you don't have to worry about it anymore and you gotta be resilient in any sport you play.
"Grand Island has been a nemesis for us. ... A team that's been to states as many years as they have - they're a great program. Anytime you can win over them is awesome."
Coulter also credited his team and how much effort they put in to each and every game.
"I think these guys work harder than any other team. When they (opposing team) walk off the field, they're going to know that they played a bunch of guys that left it all out there," Coulter said.
While the team enjoys success now, Coulter said the program is built for victories in years to come, too. Versus Grand Island, the Falcons started just three seniors, meaning underclassmen are getting steady playing time.
"A lot of these guys are coming back next year. We have a lot of talent on our lower levels that will come up and fill the gaps and I think that's what's unique about this team: We're good and still really young," he said.
After defeating Grand Island Friday, the boys defeated Kenmore East, 3-1. The Falcons' next matchup is at 4:45 p.m. today versus CSAT.