Motivated Falcons playing like it’s 1999

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Drew Dworkin still can’t believe it happened, even if it’s been almost a full calendar year since his Riverdale soccer team saw its run for a third straight state title end in a loss to rival Collegiate. 

“From Day 1 that’s what we all talked about,” said Dworkin, a senior with the Falcons. “All we thought about was getting Collegiate this year. I mean, the first thing we said when we came back from preseason was, ‘I can’t believe we lost to Collegiate.’ We really felt we could have done a three-peat and now we’d be talking about four-peating. 

“But everything ended with that loss.”

Riverdale coach Andrew Fitzgerald said he remembers seeing his team in the moments following that defeat and knew that disappointment would be what fueled his Falcons this time around.

“They didn’t like walking off that field in the first round,” Fitzgerald said of the Falcons’ early defeat in the New York State Association of Independent Schools state tournament. “We all felt we should have been in that championship game again. We won it two years in a row, and then losing last year gave them motivation for this year to do it again.”

And that motivation is doing exactly what Fitzgerald thought it would as his Falcons knocked off Dalton 2-0 last week to boost their record to 10-0 on the season as they aim for a third state title in four seasons. And with the track record Fitzgerald has had in his seven seasons at the helm, another run at the title is more likely than not.

We’re winning something every year,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve definitely been ascending. And this year I feel is the best team I’ve had in my seven years.”

“Ascending.” That’s one way of putting it. “Dominating” would be another. And because of last year’s stunning loss to Collegiate in the NYSAIS state tournament, Dworkin ups the ante a bit more, making the degree of difficulty just a little trickier as he hopes to be part of a team finding its place in the Riverdale record books.

“To win the league again would be great,” said Dworkin, who assisted on goals by Tyler Friedsam and Arjun Pal in Riverdale’s victory over Dalton. “But to win both the league and NYSAIS, and without losing a game, that would be something no one has ever done. That would be special in its own right.”

Fitzgerald then interrupted Dworkin to tell him the 1999 Riverdale team did accomplish just that. But that didn’t curb Dworkin’s enthusiasm.

“So we’d be the second one to do that. That would be amazing to do,” Dworkin said. “We’re just halfway though our season now. So far so good. But it’s not what you do in the first half, it’s what you do in the second half. So we’ll see where it goes from here.”

Owning a bevy of lopsided victories with such scores as 9-2, 7-2, 7-1 and 13-2 among its 10 victories so far, Riverdale appears to be on a collision course with another Ivy League crown, and perhaps another run at the state title. It would be the perfect elixir to wash away the bitter taste of last season’s finish and give Dworkin and his senior teammates the perfect climax to spectacular careers. 

Let them party like it’s 1999.

“You always want to go out on top — especially with us being seniors — and this will be our last year playing soccer,” Dworkin said. “So it would mean a great deal, at least for me. I play with my friends here … you can’t really get that feeling of going out on top unless you do it playing with your friends. 

“And with us, it’s a confidence factor. When everyone walks on the pitch, knowing that we can score the amount of goals we do and we can control the midfield and the back like we do, it’s hard to not walk on the field and know you can do it again. 

“Hopefully it all means we can end like champs again this year.”

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