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New Coach Whips Horsemen Soccer Into Winning Shape

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September 29, 2022

By Tom Pedulla–

Hope has arrived for a Sleepy Hollow boys’ varsity soccer program that has struggled mightily in recent seasons. His name is David Martinez.

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The Horsemen have immediately improved under their new coach. Players are crediting him with bringing much-needed discipline and organization to a team that won only two of 16 games, with one tie, last season.

“He’s a lot more organized and he puts in a lot more time for us,” said senior captain Nikhil Weltig. “Our last coaches did nothing offseason. The coach here has been putting in countless hours every week. He is making sure the youth program is sturdy so we have a good future at Sleepy Hollow.”

David Urgiles, also a senior captain, endured a 3-12 record his freshman season, then played a greatly abbreviated schedule as a sophomore. He described his previous years with the team as “vey painful” and said Athletic Director Michael Arias’ decision to hire Martinez was “very welcome.”

In discussing the positive atmosphere that now surrounds the vastly improved 4-3-2 team and previous issues that are being addressed, Urgiles said, “It was lack of discipline for the last three years. But this year, we are focused and very disciplined.” Urgiles did not provide any examples of disciplinary problems. But he said they existed “on and off the field.”

Weltig said of Martinez, “He’s brought a new mentality. He’s a lot more strict with the kids. Before we had some behavioral issues. We’ve gotten rid of most of those problems. We’re still working out the last few bumps, but we’re almost there.”

Under Martinez, the Horsemen needed only six games to meet their first goal of surpassing last year’s record. They won three of their first six games with two ties. They showed how far they have come in a short time with an offensive explosion that provided an 8-1 rout of Brewster.

Martinez brings an impressive resume. In addition to international experience in Colombia and Mexico, he coached for 12 years at Keio Academy in Purchase. “We are excited to have Dave here with us as our varsity head coach,” Arias said in an email. “Dave has a tremendous amount of knowledge about the game of soccer and has experienced a lot of success as a head varsity coach here in the section. The team is off to a great start and we look forward to seeing them compete the rest of the season and into sectionals.”

Arias is being credited by student-athletes and their parents for his efforts to reverse the fortunes of a number of programs for girls and boys that have fared poorly.

When Martinez was asked his approach to maintaining discipline, he responded, “It’s quite simple. Discipline has to be there all the time. It’s like going to school. They have teachers. They need to listen, they need to execute and that’s it. This is nothing different.”

He is intensely focused on building through young talent and is taking a long view. “We’ll encourage players not to go anywhere else, to stay in our town and come over here to the high school and play soccer,” he said.

An encouraging aspect is that the junior varsity enjoyed a quick start, sweeping its first five games. Another is the attention Martinez is paying to player development at every level. He had the modified team working with the varsity during a recent practice. “I want to make sure I can identify the young talent. We have many years to go with them, so it’s great that way,” he said. “There has got to be a different mentality. We’re building it from the ground up.”

It helps, too, that Martinez is joined by his son, Diego, a center midfielder who started his first three years at White Plains before transferring to Sleepy Hollow. He represents a significant offensive threat with a team-leading 13 points and is a great fit for his father’s philosophy that an attacking offense provides the best defense.

Other offensive players of note are Callum Gallagher, a junior outside midfielder, and Aiden Smith, a striker. They are tied for the team lead with six goals apiece. Julien Siegel has contributed four goals and four assists for eight points. Players are doing everything possible to secure the winning season they have longed for. They also understand the need to develop young prospects as part of building a better tomorrow.

“There is so much young talent that can play junior varsity and varsity,” said senior captain Randall Nugra, confident that the future is bright.

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