The recent success of the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs is not surprising to Spencerport soccer buffs and past history supports just that – continued success over decades and decades.
By PETER MANCUSO
With a historic weekend coming up where BOTH the boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer teams will compete for a state soccer title (boys play on Saturday, November 12 at 10 am vs. Amityville (XI) at Monroe-Woodbury High School and the girls play on Saturday, November 12 at 12:30 pm vs New Hartford (III) at Tompkins-Cortland Community College), a quick look back shows the foundation for success was laid nearly a century ago and the pride shown by the community continues year after year.
The Early Years
Boys soccer was brought to Spencerport by Harold (Chick) Schum in 1934, the Spencerport Hall of Famer who coached soccer, basketball and baseball for the Rangers while also serving as Athletic Director over the years. History points to 1941 as the first year of interscholastic competition for Spencerport. Schum and Leo Bernabi, founder of Spencerport wrestling and also a Spencerport Hall of Famer who has an elementary school named in his honor, led the soccer team for the first two decades less a three-year hiatus for the war.
Ron Broadbent, another Spencerport Hall of Famer (the trend has started), was hired in 1959 as a physical education teacher and took over as the boys’ varsity soccer coach. Broadbent was part of the Brockport State soccer squad that won the 1955 National Intercollegiate Championship.
It didn’t take Broadbent long to lead the Rangers to some hardware, earning the 1960 Monroe County Division Championship in his second year at the helm.
As the boys were starting to build their dynasty, from 1972 to 1974 they were undefeated in 49 straight games, the Spencerport girls’ program made its debut in 1973 on the heels of the new Title IX legislation and Spencerport physical education teacher Pat Stevenson (S-HOF) was chosen to lead the team by then athletic director Broadbent. Stevenson had previously debuted the Spencerport girls’ varsity volleyball team in the winter of 1973, one of the first ever girls varsity teams for Spencerport.
And it didn’t take Stevenson and the girls program long to make their mark on Rangers soccer history; after dropping just one game during the regular season an overtime goal by Laurie Boughter (yep … S-HOF) against Alfred-Almond in the championship game gave the Lady Rangers a 1-0 victory and a sectional title in their first season ever.
“We had great support from the start,” recalled Stevenson from her home in the Pinehurst, NC. “The girls were so excited to have a varsity team and the season could not have gone much better. It was a great experience for everyone and we capped it off with sectional title.”
The boys, led by Broadbent, also won sectionals that year, marking their fourth consecutive title, a streak they stretched to five the following season. Broadbent’s knowledge and work ethic helped take the program to another level and he was helped by super assistants throughout the course of his career. Ron Zorn, Peter Hinchey and John Berardacurti were also instrumental in shaping the boys over the years and all three are Spencerport Hall of Famers as well.
Zorn, a Churchville-Chili grad, recalled the Spencerport team coming to Churchville Park in the 50’s to practice.
“Schum would drive the school bus over to the park with the team to practice and sometimes we’d scrimmage each other.”
Zorn would go onto a very successful college career at Cortland and was hired by Bernabi to coach and teach at Spencerport in the early 60’s.
“We started a freshman team late in the 60’s, which gave us more depth for the program and allowed many more kids to play soccer. Practices were very competitive at every level and we concentrated on skill development, using skill contests to help them improve.
“We (Broadbent, Hinchey and Zorn) all grew up playing very competitive soccer and were on very successful college teams. We felt the influence of our college coaches on us put us a step or two ahead of our colleagues when we started our own coaching careers.”
After Zorn stepped away from coaching to spend more time with his family, he soon became involved with soccer in a different way as the Section Five Boys’ Coordinator and later as the New York State Boys’ Coordinator.
“The influence Ron had on soccer at the section and state level was huge,” remarked Jeff Farnsworth (S-HOF), a Spencerport grad who played and coached at his alma mater and has been involved with soccer his whole life at the youth, high school, state, college and national level.
“He brought the Section Five tournament template to the state level and made it a huge event with a banquet and multiple games at the same sites. We (Section Five and NYS) were viewed nationally for our post-season tournament success.”
Besides his incredible contribution to Spencerport, Section Five and New York State soccer, Zorn initiated the start of the Spencerport boys’ volleyball program in 1972 and was the programs first coach ever, winning sectionals in 1973 and 1976.
“The administration was so supportive of what the coaches and athletic directors were doing for athletics over the years,” Zorn noted.
Spencerport Boys and Girls Soccer – BOTH Sectional Champs
The 1973 season was the first time BOTH the boys and girls won sectional titles in the same season. The 2007 season was the second. The boys’ team was coached by Tom Etsler, marking his second of five sectional titles as the boys head coach, and the 2007 girls team was led by current varsity coach Jamie Schneider who collected his first sectional title in his fifth year as head coach of the varsity program. Etsler began his soccer coaching career at Spencerport as the girls’ varsity head coach in 1993 and 1994 before moving over to the boys’ program. Etsler played summer soccer for Coach Zorn in Churchville. Six degrees of Spencerport soccer.
Etsler was a Churchville-Chili grad too and always remembered the day the new schedule came out.
“The first thing we looked for when the schedule came out – when do we play Spencerport at Spencerport. They had lights and it was the ‘Holy Grail’ of fields to play on. The crowds were great, you could smell the Ranger burgers cooking in the air … the atmosphere was second to none.”
Spencerport Soccer Stadium
The field came about in the mid 60’s in nearly the exact place it is right now, tucked in and around a tree lined area on the Spencerport campus. It has gone through some renovations over the years, with a change from natural grass to turf being the biggest, but it has not lost its star power with players, coaches or fans.
“I would argue it was one of the best soccer fields in the country,” Farnsworth commented. “The administration and grounds folks made sure it was in great shape all the time.”
He should know, having spent many a day there between his playing and coaching career. Lights were installed in the late 70’s and the players parents and the Spencerport Fire Department played a big part in the installation and maintenance of them over the years.
The Spencerport firemen were (as still are) huge supporters of Spencerport soccer and Spencerport Athletics. They were at the games all the time as a number of firemen children were playing for the team throughout the years. And what sectional champion will ever forget a fire engine parade into town after coming home victorious in sectionals.
Influential Coaches Make Impact
“When I started coaching the boys at the varsity level, I made sure to respect the old traditions. Hoods up on the sweats … entering the stadium from the back through the woods,” Etsler explained. “Growing up a soccer player and fan on the Westside, you knew what Spencerport soccer was all about. The foundation that Ron Broadbent and Ron Zorn laid for generations to come was impressive.”
Etsler is the longest tenured boys varsity soccer coach in Spencerport history with 24 seasons as head of the boys program, garnering five sectional titles along the way. Broadbent coached the varsity boys for 21 years and won seven sectional titles.
Etsler and Berardicurti are the only two Spencerport soccer coaches to lead both the girls’ and boys’ varsity squads as head coach and Berardicurti might be leader in the number of different ways he has helped Spencerport soccer overall over the years.
Varsity head coach for both the boys and girls, varsity assistant coach for the boys, player from the modified level all the way up to varsity and a life-long supporter of the Rangers’ soccer program and the Spencerport soccer club (started in the late 60’s by a number of alumni).
“It has been a great journey throughout my years with Spencerport,” Berardicurti said. “The game brought us together as as a community and to me, it has always been about the ‘Spencerport family’ … playing the games with friends over the years and all the support we’ve had from parents and the community has created memories that are lasting a lifetime.”
New York State Boys’ Tournament
The New York State boys’ soccer tournament began in 1978 and Jim Gentile was a member of the Spencerport team that won the 1978 Class A sectional title and advanced to the inaugural state tournament. Spencerport and Webster were declared co-champs and the Rangers moved on after winning the NASL style shootout (five different players had five seconds to score, starting with the ball at the 35 yard mark). Spencerport lost 2-1 to Ithaca (IV) in the state semi-finals that season, the eventual state champion.
Broadbent put Berardicurti in charge of any shootouts the team might be involved in during sectionals and it paid off.
“I remember Ron telling me that if we get to that point, you are in charge of the team shootout,” Berardicurti recalled. “Shooters strategy and goalie play, everything. We had an idea of what would work and the guys made it executed and we advanced to states.”
The 1979 team were also declared co-champs, this time with Greece Arcadia, and advanced once again via the NASL shootout. They faced Vestal (IV) in the semifinals and lost 2-0
“Coach Broadbent was a John Wooden type of coach and focused so much on technique,” Gentile noted. “We were a very good technical side and were so well prepared and disciplined. To his credit, he let us play.”
Gentile recalled the pickup games back behind Bernabi school.
“Players of all ages would gather to play and it was symbolic of a passing of the torch at times. You had to work hard on your game to be ready for the season.” Farnsworth remembered, “If you didn’t get to the field early enough you weren’t playing. There were days where 20-30 kids would be waiting to play. There was so much talent on some of our teams, kids couldn’t make our starting eleven in high school but would go on to be multi-year starters and captains of their college teams.”
Influential Coaches Continue to Make Impact
Farnsworth came back to coach at his alma mater in 1980, starting at the modified level and worked himself up the ranks through the years. He assisted Berardicurti for a number of years at the varsity level, a man he played for back in the summer growing up.
“The work ethic as coaches that I saw from Broadbent and Zorn when I was playing was amazing. It inspired me to bring that same type of energy. No one was watching film back then. They were always learning more and more to make us better.”
Broadbent had a big influence on generations of Spencerport soccer players long after he left as head coach.
“I love having so many people he coached be involved in coaching. It was an honor and thrill to coach at Spencerport and follow in the footsteps of some of my heroes (Broadbent and Zorn).”
Pete Montenaro was another coach with significant influence on the success of Spencerport soccer over the years. A self-proclaimed football guy when he came to Spencerport in 1975, he soon caught the Rangers soccer bug having met Berardicurti and a number of other soccer guys in the community.
“Soccer was what Spencerport was all about and getting involved helped me fit into the community quicker,” recalled Montenaro. “That 1975 group was awesome. They came before a state championship was started but they certainly would have made a run at it.”
By 1979 he was helping out by running the game clock for Coach Broadbent and his assistant, Berardicurti and in 1980 he joined the coaching ranks.
“I started coaching the 7th grade boys and moved up with them to 8th grade. I stayed there for a second year before moving to the freshman level. Eventually I became Jeff Farnsworth’s assistant at the varsity level (boys). And at some point I also spent a few years in Laurie Boughter’s program, coaching the JV girls.”
“I had the opportunity to work with some great coaches and some great players. Those teams were always top notch, and we packed that stadium game after game. I also was fortunate to work with Joan Selander and Vito Vincelli, the movers behind the start of the Spencerport Sports Boosters. Spencerport soccer turned this guy who literally had never seen a soccer ball and made me a true lover. My kids inherited that love and to this day follow Spencerport soccer, like so many alum do.”
Current Success Does Not Come Overnight
Just after the turn of the century, Jamie Schneider joined the Spencerport physical education staff and began coaching Rangers’ soccer, first in the boys program as JV coach for two years and then as the head coach of the Girls’ varsity program starting in 2003. He hasn’t left. Originally from the Saint Paul/Minneapolis area in Minnesota, Schneider played his collegiate soccer at St. Bonaventure and then took a job in Spencerport starting in the fall of 2001. Spencerport soccer fans are very happy he did.
“Coming to Spencerport and coaching soccer was a great pleasure,” Schneider said. “I knew nothing about Spencerport and how important soccer was in the community and quickly learned all the tradition of Spencerport soccer, both at the high school level and in the community with the club. It was simply fun and exciting just to be a part of the excellence of soccer in Spencerport.
“For starters, it was one of the first high schools that I had ever seen where the soccer stadium was separate from the other sports. Plus the great involvement of the community assisting to develop the best soccer teams for the varsity level to be successful. Just great traditions at both the girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer programs. So many great teams, championships, great players with pride, and along with great traditions.”
Schenider’s 2007 squad won the first girls’ sectional title since 1980 and it would be a sneak peak of things to come. The 2008 team reached the finals the following season, but were defeated in the championship game. A few years later his 2015 team won the Monroe County Division III title and the quest for trophies was on. Both the 2016 and 2017 teams were undefeated and won sectional and state titles, while the 2018 and 2019 teams also won sectional championships and made strong showings in the state tournament. The Lady Rangers soccer team put together a 64-match undefeated streak from 2016-2018 and the 2022 sectional title marked the seventh straight for Schneider’s varsity soccer teams.
“I’ve learned to make sure your athletes have fun and enjoy the game. It’s also important to have positive relationships with your athletes, making sure they know you care about them as athletes, but also in their daily lives,” Schneider explained. “As a coach, you never stop learning and you are always looking for ways to improve yourself and team. I think at the end of the day the most rewarding aspect of coaching is working with the kids and the relationships you build with them.
“And the community has played a role in that success because of the tradition of soccer. You need the kind of culture where players get involved at an early age with the game, an environment that they will develop them to be successful, and families that will go above and beyond for them to be successful in this program.”
Jody Wyant started out in the Spencerport girls’ program back in 2001 as a modified coach and he too worked himself up the coaching level ladder, taking over the JV team 2005 after a year as program assistant, while also adding girls varsity assistant to his duties.
“At the end of 2004, Jamie and I sat down to talk as the JV (girls) position had opened up,” Wyant recalled. “I basically asked him what coaching job he wanted me in and told him I would do whatever position he wanted me to … whatever was best for the program. He asked me to take on the JV team so I did that for the next 14 years.”
Over that span of time, the two – along with the other coaches in the program, worked tirelessly to build the girls’ program into the power they are today. Then along came another coaching opportunity.
Coaches Etsler and Wyant spoke a bit about the 2018 season possibly being his last as the leader of the Spencerport boys’ program and would Wyant be interested if the opportunity arose.
“I talked to Jamie a lot about it and my wife Katie too. It was one of the hardest and most agonizing decisions in my life. Jamie and I had worked so hard to build the girls’ program and we were on a great run with back to back state championships and I have three little girls at home that play soccer. Needless to say it was tough.”
A tough one for sure, but also a great opportunity. Having grown up in Hilton playing varsity for them in the 90’s, he saw first hand what Spencerport soccer was and then was able to experience it first hand as a coach in the girls program.
“To me, it was a big responsibility to take over a program with such a long history of success,” Wyant remarked. “There was also pressure there to maintain a level of success that Tom (Etsler) had restored to the program. Spencerport is very much a soccer town and for those that played, it matters about the success of this program.”
Through Wyant’s coaching career he too can’t talk enough about the importance of relationship building.
“My biggest takeaway is the relationships I have fostered with my players, assistant coaches and all the people I meet along the way. In this day, I believe aside from tactics is relationship building. Athletes are more willing to go through a wall for you if they know you will do the same thing for them.”
Wyant and Schneider’s Spencerport high school colleague Josh Harter (former varsity basketball coach for the Rangers) summed it up well,
“The consistency and success of both the boys and girls programs fosters a ‘culture’. Spencerport youth are drawn to soccer at a very young age and as our athletes get to the varsity level, they expect to make a run at division and sectional titles. Their (Jody and Jamie) constant collaboration has led to Spencerport soccer continued success.”
Harter’s son (Josh) and nephew (Trevor Stroud) are members of the undefeated Avon Braves who are also competing in the boys’ state final four this weekend.
Is the Third Time the Charm
2022 is the third time the Spencerport boys and girls BOTH won sectional titles in the same year and the FIRST time ever they have both advanced to the state semi-finals. The boys’ program has never made it past the semis while the girls’ team has done extremely well over the past seven years. Stay tuned this weekend as the young players for Spencerport work on another chapter of Spenceport soccer history.
NOTES: There is a reunion being planned for the fall of 2023 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the inaugural season of Girls’ Varsity soccer at Spencerport and the program’s first sectional title … they hope to get in contact with all team members, all coaches interviewed for the story remarked how great it is to see alums giving back to soccer through coaching; some at Spencerport and others at surrounding schools.