Winston McKoy was disappointed when Bard was given the 21st seed in the PSAL Class A playoffs because, the coach said, it showed the league failed to acknowledge its solid first year in Manhattan A, arguably the best division in the city.
That shouldn’t be a problem any longer.
The Raptors upset No. 12 Sheepshead Bay, 3-1, in Brooklyn Sunday afternoon, winning their ‘A’ division playoff opener. They face No. 5 John Adams in the ‘L’ bracket semifinals Thursday afternoon in Queens.
“It proves our push up to the ‘A’ division isn’t a fluke,” he said. “We play quality, hard-nosed soccer. We play a stylistic game of soccer, we play together as a unit and we work hard and play as a team.”
Impressive freshman Eli Shirk scored twice, once in each half, to make up for the absence of senior striker Henry Swertloff due to an illness, and Nathan Miller also found the back of the net for Bard. Gabriel Wirz, Miller and Sebastien Gerard added assists and goalkeepers Max Wolf and Sam Gilbert combined to make 10 saves.
“We call him the baby-faced assassin – he’s 5-feet tall and 100 pounds – but he finishes like a giant,” McKoy said of Shirk.
After consecutive undefeated seasons in ‘B,’ Bard (8-5-2) enjoyed a solid first year in Manhattan A, finishing in fourth place, just a point behind Stuyvesant, the 15th seed in the postseason. It played fourth-seeded Beacon tough twice and held its own against four-time defending champion MLK.
The opening-round playoff victory cemented that impressive regular season, McKoy said, and showed off the Raptors’ balance. McKoy credited the diminutive Shirk for being in the right place at the right time. He tallied the first goal with a header off a Gerard cross and later added another. But the goals, the coach said, were the result of Bard working together, as one unit.
“It’s about our system,” McKoy said. “He didn’t score because of an individual play; he scored because of our attack. We moved the ball and he was in position to score. There’s no star, we have six or seven guys who put the ball in the back of the net. It’s about who’s gonna step up his game.”
A perfect example was Jackson Rogow. McKoy inserted him midway through the first half as a midfield wing. Immediately, the senior was put to the test, asked to stop a Sheepshead Bay breakaway. Rogow passed the challenge, breaking up the play, and Shrik scored moments later.
“I always say: ‘When you come off the bench, it’s not about replacing someone, but raising us up,’” McKoy said.
McKoy has high hopes for the program’s future, for good reason. He said the incoming class might be the best in the city and he will also get back superstar forward Alex Muyl, who scored 15 goals as a freshman last fall, but is spending this year in the U.S. U17 Men’s National Team Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla
“We’re gonna make sure everyone is Manhattan knows it’s gonna be very difficult to beat Bard,” McKoy said.
The present is pretty bright, too. Bard is hoping to reach the quarterfinals, although it knows topping Queens A West powerhouse John Adams and high-scoring striker Rodolfo Paguada (28 goals) will be a tall task.
“They’ve been a quality team in the ‘A’ division for years and we’re a quality team in the ‘A’ division, too,” McKoy said. “It’s gonna be a quality match.”