Christian Florencia Rockland, Tappan Zee Soccer Player of the Year
Tappan Zee Boys football goaltender Christian Florencia, the Rockland Player of the Year on December 20, 2021.
Peter Carr, Rockland News/Westchester Journal
Something had to change.
The sting of a 7-0 defeat at Somers in early September forced Tappan Zee to reevaluate. It was a humbling moment and the second defeat in a row for the Dutch, who entered the season with high expectations.
“Going forward, we had to commit to defending as a team and turning an area with a lot of question marks into an all-around force,” coach Jon Jacobs said.
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Tappan Zee relied on Christian Florencia.
It made sense to group around a four-year-old starter in goal, who knew the culture and embraced the pressure of the big moments.
“This game was definitely a turning point in both the way we played and our attitude,” Florencia said. “We realized Somers was probably the best team we had on the schedule. After seeing (Daniel) D’Ippolito and (Bennett) Leitner, we knew we had to focus on our defence. I think that really helped us play better going forward.
After slowing down and carefully plotting the counters, the Dutch went 14-1-1.
The loss came to Eastchester in a Section 1 Class A semi-final. Florencia recorded 11 shutouts with help from the realigned back line. He finished with a .830 goals-against average.
“Our team has really embraced the characteristics and qualities that Christian possesses,” added Jacobs. “He has extraordinary poise and confidence and his attention to detail is extraordinary. Keeper is a thankless position where at best you try to break even. Christian has so much mental toughness and composure He has all the technical skills, but I think it’s the intangibles that have allowed Christian to play at an elite level.
Florencia was named league MVP, all sections and fourth team state. He is also the Rockland Journal News Player of the Year.
It was a hell of a ride for a kid who initially didn’t like waiting for the game to come to him.
“When I was younger, I never liked playing goalkeeper,” Florencia said. “I hated it at first. Back in the recreational league or whatever, I was always a forward, but when I started to feel that adrenaline going through you when someone comes right at you, there’s nothing like it. I think it was in seventh grade that I really locked down that job and have loved it ever since.
“There are so many aspects of being a keeper that I love. It’s the adrenaline, the leadership, the fact that you can see everything in front of you, being able to make a play and get your teammates back in. Having that control on the back line is awesome.
And it’s a great way to make your parents unhappy.
“I’m locked up so I don’t think about what they’re going through, but when I’m done and I leave the pitch after a big game they let me know, ‘You have no idea what you’re going through. just put me through it,’” Florencia said. “I don’t feel the nerves like them. For me, it’s more about staying in the moment. They feel anxiety for me.
The next step is in the air.
Academics will be the main influence when Florencia chooses a college, but an opportunity to play soccer is higher on the priority list than it was at the start of the season.
“I think I’m walking somewhere,” he said. “My studies are more important than football, but it was a very good year for me, so I’m more interested in looking at colleges where I could play than before.”
The rest of the first team
F — Jack Kryger, Tappan Zee: He finished with 19 goals, the most by a second in program history. Kryger scored the overtime winners against Greeley and Nanuet and provided seven assists.
F — Robert Pesantez, North Rockland: The shrewd senior was on the ball at every critical moment and involved in every free-kick. He finished with 10 goals and seven assists.
F — Jonas Toubin, Suffern: He was a particularly determined finisher at the end of close games for the improving Mounties. The junior scored seven goals and set up two game-winning goals against Spring Valley.
MF — Heinrich Jean-Francois, Ramapo: The elder topped every opponent’s scouting report and helped the Gryphons go 5-3 in the second half of the season before losing to Carmel in the playoffs.
MF—Alan Branach, Jr., Suffern: He scored seven goals and four assists for the Mounties, who won four straight at the end of October to finish the season with a 7-9-1 record.
MF — Jared Polvino, Clarkstown North: The elder was a high-energy presence who finished with 11 goals and seven assists for the Rams, who posted 11 wins this season before losing to Nanuet in the first round of Sections.
MF – Eduardo Godinez, Clarkstown North: He was the driving force behind the Rams’ football resurgence and was generally the most skilled player on the field. The all-state senior was a whirlwind in transition.
D — Geremy Torres, Nanuet: A natural leader who ensured calm on the back line. The elder was the main reason the Golden Knights allowed just 1.3 goals per game and scared Somers in the Section 1 quarter-finals.
D — Serxhio Nikolli, Tappan Zee: He moved to the back line and helped solidify the defense, finishing with nine goals and one assist. The senior scored twice in a 3-2 win over Clarkstown North to avenge the only league loss of the season.
D—Gabe Garcia, North Rockland: The junior anchored an aggressive defensive unit that posted seven shutouts. He was a beast on the ball and helped drive him forward in transition.
Coach of the year
John Jacobs, Tappan Zee: He overhauled the roster after a 1-2 start, made team defense a priority and finished with a 15-3-1 record, winning the II-E League title along the way . The Dutch posted 11 shutouts before losing 3-2 to Eastchester in the Section 1 Class A semi-final.
F – Liam Ryan, father, Nanuet
F – Jose Aguilar, Sr., Clarkstown North
F – Weedmerlyn Saintilus, Sr., Spring Valley
MF – Melvin Guanga, Jr., North Rockland
MF – Jake Acosta, Jr., Clarkstown North
MF – Bernardo Carrera, Jr., North Rockland;
MF – Tom Donohue, Sr., Tappan Zee
D – Karl Rodriguez, father, Nyack
D – Nick Lange, Jr., Tappan Zee
D – Martin McDermott, Sr., Pearl River
G – Ryan Travaglini, father, Albertus Magnus
Joe Balducci, Jr., D, Suffern; Ian Cheng, Sr., MF, Nanuet; Ryan Dorsainvil, Sr., G, Clarkstown South; Bryan Galvez, Sr., D, Ramapo; Ryan Harrington, Sr., MF, Albertus Magnus; Brady Jacobs, Fr., F, Tappan Zee; Liam Winters, Sr., F, Albertus Magnus.
Mike Dougherty covers men’s soccer, men’s lacrosse, women’s basketball and golf for The Journal News/lohud.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @hoopsmbd, @lohudlacrosse, @lohudhoopsmbd and @lohudgolf.