If you are a fan of Hayes soccer, then you know the 2017 and 2018 seasons were seasons to forget. 26 straight losses, combined with a lack of leadership and direction dictated that it was time for a change. Enter Head Coach Manuel Paulino ‘09. Former Hayes soccer’s team captain and a United States Marines veteran currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Manhattan College. Coach Paulino returned to Hayes with a goal in mind: to elevate the Cardinal Hayes soccer team to the standards of excellence associated with our other athletics programs.
Such a task would prove daunting, considering he had been hired only three weeks before the official start of the season and had limited time to bond with his team and develop a winning strategy. In order to gain the trust of his players and increase the bond amongst them, coach Paulino called impromptu meetings and practices. The players embraced the challenges presented by their new head coach. The practices became more competitive, the conditioning sessions longer and the comradery between the soccer players more visible in the halls of Hayes.
The 2019 season began with a 2-2 tie against St. Raymond’s H.S. Although it was not a victory, the tie broke a streak of 26 consecutive losses for our Hayesmen. It was a step in the right direction, but not the result coach Paulino ‘09 and his boys were looking for. The next 4 games resulted in additional losses for the team, Moore Catholic 3-1, LaSalle Academy 2-1, St. Edmund’s 1-0 and Sacred Heart 5-0. While many may think it was, 'more of the same,' this was not the case.
The Cardinals turned it around with a dominant 6-0 victory over Bishop Loughlin H.S. Four different players scored goals, Franco Sorza ’20 scored 3 while Eddie Vera ’20, Jeffrey Donkor ’21 and Yair Nieto ’21 scored one goal each. The goalies, Daniel Batista ’20 and Edgar Baeza ‘21 put on a clinic, saving 12 shots on target. There it was! The team had its first win of the season and its first win in over two and a half years.
“We knew our first win was inevitable this season since we have a prolific core of student-athletes. We needed to remain diligent and patient," said coach Paulino, "There's a lot of potential in this team, especially in our underclassmen. We are starting to come together, and that's what is most important. This win could be our turning point." And it was.
The Hayes varsity soccer team went on a 3-game winning streak, defeating the aforementioned Bishop Loughlin H.S.6-0, Cathedral Preparatory 1-0 and Cristo Rey H.S. 1-0, before dropping another game. Their fifth and final loss of the regular season was a hard fought game against Sacred Heart H.S. The Cardinals lost 2 – 0 and backed themselves into a corner. Another loss would eliminate them from playoffs contention.
The Cardinals rallied to defeat All Hallows 4-2, tie St. Raymond’s at 1, and to beat La Salle Academy 3-0 and All Hallows 3-0. to end the regular season with a 6-5-2 record. Their positive winning percentage earned them a spot in the 2019 CHSAA Soccer Playoffs. It was their first appearance since 2016 when they won the NYC B Division Championship.
Hayes lost to Moore Catholic H.S. on a Penalty shootout in the first round of the playoffs, ending what could have been a magical season for the Cardinals. However, Hayes soccer ended the season on a high note, going 6-1-1 over their last eight games, having the best defense in the division by allowing the fewest goals and returning to the playoffs. In addition, four of Hayesmen earned individual accolades for their performance on the field. On Saturday, November 9th 2019, The Catholic High School Athletic Association honored the All-League players from across all soccer divisions. The Hayes Varsity soccer team received four recognitions: Carlos Manzano’20, Saul Leal’ 20, Edgar Baeza ’21 and Jeffrey Donkor ’21.
A new head coach, a winning record, an improved defense, a playoffs appearance and four individual All–League player recognitions are all indicators that the Cardinal Hayes Soccer Program has taken a step in the right direction.
Up Hayes & All Its Loyal Men