Poly Prep soccer aims to reclaim private school state title

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Poly Prep’s Levi Stern has a new role that places him front and center on the field, and the senior midfielder is embracing the goal-scoring expectations that come with it.

Stern said he was only about 60 percent healthy last season while trying to fully recover from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament as a sophomore. He felt he couldn’t play to his full potential. Now Stern no longer needs the restrictive brace wore last year and isn’t operating from behind a talented group of senior scorers. His teammates have taken notice of Stern’s added fervor and propensity to find the back of the net.

“He’s finally back,” senior defender Aldan Von Ziegesar said.

Stern is ready to lead the Poly attack this season and will do so for a team that lost plenty of offense. Top goal-scorer Nick Safian (22 goals) and forward Daniel Sullivan (10 goals) have graduated, but Stern is prepared to do his part to pick up the slack. Poly hopes his now-healthy leg, and some help from up-and-comers Taro Nakagewa and Connor Doherty, can spark a balanced attack.

“We lost our two top goal scorers. I feel like I have to step up and take that position,” Stern said.

He will do so with the Blue Devils squad in search of its first private school boys soccer state title since 2008. Poly has played in five of the last six title games and won consecutive crowns in 2007 and 2008. They fell 2–0 to Collegiate in the final last season. This group wants to be the one to get the Bay Ridge private school over the hump and put them on top once more.

“We expect to be right back” Blue Devils coach Gerry Stone said.

The Blue Devils will be working with an experienced defense led by Von Ziegesar and fellow center back Tom Clarke. They, along with returning goalkeeper Mike McAloon, will have to lead less experienced defenders Nick Saia and Max Axelrad.

“We are looking to be leaders,” Von Ziegesar said. “We are both big boys. We are trying to hold it down as much as was can.”

Stone feels this year’s group is solid up the middle of the field with seniors. It will have to find scoring from some talented but unproven players, but that doesn’t stop them from thinking about reclaiming an elusive state title.

“I think my whole Poly career we have been searching for that title,” Von Ziegesar said. “It’s my goal this year to try to just win it for Poly, get states.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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