Paul Sapienza, the father of soccer here, whose Springs School teams went undefeated in 13 of the 15 years he was here, used to wonder whatever happened to all the talent he was sending East Hampton High School’s way. One answer was that the kids, while they possessed fine individual skills, had not yet figured out how to play as a team, nor had they, in some cases, learned that being a team player meant you also had to keep your grades up.
They call soccer the beautiful game, but at the high school level it often is not. Frequently it is the tougher team, the one with the players who fight for every 50-50 ball, and who then, through sheer force of will sometimes, put it into the opponent’s goal, that wins. Hold on too long to the ball, however nifty your footwork may be, and it will prove unavailing.
These days, Mr. Sapienza, one of whose men’s traveling teams once rode a 77-game winning streak in Islandwide competition, would no longer be wondering whatever happened to his kids at the high school level. Rich King, the head coach for the past five years, and his assistant, Don McGovern, who formerly coached Pierson High, have got their charges playing as a team — as a championship team in fact. They play with toughness and with finesse, they’re determined, not cocky, and they’ve been wonderful to watch.
King and McGovern’s teams have played in three county championship games and have won three league championships in the past four years. They won the county championship last year and this and, while they lost 2-0 to Jericho in the Long Island title game this past week, they gave it everything they had and were unbowed in defeat.
“It’s been a fulfilling season,” King said. “These kids always found a way to win, they have 10 one-goal victories. As a coach you can’t ask for anything more. . . . They always want to win a state title. It’s not a coach-driven goal, it’s the goal of our kids. And it’s going to happen one of these days.”
Meanwhile, there’s plenty for the players, their coaches, and East Hampton to be proud about.