As many of you may have noticed over the last week or so, I have had a poll up asking who you — the readers — think should be this year’s LoHud Coach of the Year. In an overwhelming response, the poll has received over 550 votes, by far the highest in the blog’s history.
Before I list names below, I wanted to note two very important items that I think sometimes people lose sight of: 1. The blog poll is unofficial — I want to hear from you to see what you think, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that whoever wins the poll, wins whatever the poll is about. I did a bowling poll two years ago, and kids started tweeting and whatnot that a kid had won before the season was over. Of course, the winner of the poll could very well end up winning, I just want to note that the poll results doesn’t automatically reflect that. 2. Not all “nominees” are set in stone — I wanted to only put about five names, but there’s just way too many outstanding coaches out there. I tried “nominating” coaches who have had a profound impact on their respective programs; like I said, I could easily nominate 15-20 coaches who are worthy. Please do not take offense if you’re not listed.
I plan on using the poll from this blog, my own personal opinion and a survey/poll I’ll send out to the coaches asking them to nominate someone, to determine this year’s winner. When I put up posts for Rockland and Westchester players of the year, please keep this in mind; the same format will apply.
Anyway, here were my nominees, along with a small background on each of them. I will be putting up a new poll question when the current one likely reaches 600 votes, but please continue to sound-off in the comments section.
(Editor’s note: All records in the poll itself are following the regular season; records have been updated in the bios to include playoff accomplishments entering Tuesday’s quarterfinals on October 29.)
— Sarah Benischek, Somers: In her first year at the helm, not only did the 24-year-old revamp a Tuskers program that went 4-13 last season, but she led them to a 16-2 regular season record. Somers (pictured in feature photo), the No. 4 seed in Class A, was eliminated in the first round by No. 13 Eastchester.
— Patty Duane, Dobbs Ferry: It is incredibly hard to argue against an undefeated team, especially one that is nowhere near accustomed to it. Prior to Pelham’s undefeated season last year, the Pelicans had already had tremendous success and had put themselves in a position to possibly to go undefeated — stocking the roster with about a dozen seniors. Duane led the youthful Eagles, which have just one senior, to an 18-0 regular season record. Dobbs Ferry (pictured right) also has just nine players on the team. The top-seeded Eagles will host No. 4 Pawling on Wednesday in the Class C semifinals.
— Justin Goldstein, Blind Brook: The Trojans have certainly had a ‘gold’en touch over the last two seasons. After a struggling year two seasons ago, the Trojans have gone 31-5 since under Goldstein’s guidance, winning two league titles in the process (one co-champ, one solo title). Goldstein told me earlier this season that the Trojans have never won a section title and hopes that this is the year. As the No. 2 seed, the Trojans (18-1) will have to hurdle No. 3 Albertus Magnus and No. 1 Dobbs Ferry to claim the title and a rare 20-win volleyball season.
— Dave Ponterio, Ardsley: Speaking of rare occurrences, we had not one, but two undefeated teams during the regular season this year thanks to Dobbs Ferry and Ardsley. Coach Ponterio, one of the most experienced coaches in the sections, with more than two decades at Ardsley, will be seeking his sixth career section title (all of which would have come since 2002). The top-seeded Panthers, armed with just one senior, will host No. 8 Nanuet in the Class B quarterfinals on Tuesday.
— Tom Rizzotti, John Jay: The Indians already have two tournament wins under their belt this year (Millbrook, Minisink Valley) and will be seeking a third in this year’s Class A section tournament. John Jay has proven to be one of the most well-rounded teams in the section and posted a 14-3 regular season to back it up. Rizzotti and the Indians (pictured below) will have a very bumpy road ahead of them, with defending regional champs Panas on Wednesday, then likely top-seeded Yorktown in Friday’s final if they win. If it survives all of that, the Indians will head to the regional tournament.
— Katy Sherwood, Yorktown: The Huskers were slowly making waves among the section over the last two or three years before hitting like a tsunami this season. Sherwood’s top-seeded squad, much like John Jay, is incredibly balanced and deep; not to mention on the other side of the bracket from John Jay-Panas. Talking to parents during Monday’s quarterfinal win over No. 9 Horace Greeley, the Huskers have never even made a section final, let alone win a title. Looking at the plaques on the wall, it looks like Yorktown (17-1) won its first solo league title in about 30 years. I think whoever emerges out of Class A, just based on the bracket itself, should make the Civic Center. This year’s section tournament couldn’t be any better of a prep course for the inevitable champion heading into regionals.
(Honorable mentions: Sean Barnes, Suffern; Jared Christian, Byram Hills; Joe Felipe, Panas; Mark Finegan, Pelham; Ann Marie Nee, Scarsdale; Lauren Riccardi, Ossining)
This year’s Coach of the Year will be announced in the all-stars edition of The Journal News likely in early December, after the state tournament concludes in mid-November. Please continue to vote below:
Somers photo credit: Rob DiAntonio/Somers Record
Dobbs Ferry photo credit: Matthew Brown/The Journal News
John Jay photo credit: Submitted photo