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Island soccer team closes a superb season: First team in three decades ‘went beyond all expectations’

Wrapping an historic Shelter Island School sports season, Coach Chris Conrardy was asked what was his major takeaway, as his soccer team — the first to take the field wearing the Island colors in three decades — completed a winning campaign. “How proud the players are of each other,” the coach said, without hesitation.

He added that he was obviously proud of each individual, but the feeling the young athletes have for each other and their accomplishment was one of the great rewards of the season. That, and the way the community embraced the young athletes with great turnouts for home games at Fiske Field, he added, will be remembered for a long time.

The Islanders finished with a record of 5-3-1 (wins, losses, ties) for 13 points, tops in their league. Going deeper into the stats, you find how good this team was, with five regulation wins, 1 regulation loss, and two double overtime losses.

The team scored 50 goals on the season, while giving up 31, and Coach Conrardy noted the last number was due to one of the team’s most valuable players, goalie Cayman Morehead. “Cayman stopped 3 out of 4 penalty kicks,” the coach said. “That’s unheard of in soccer.”

He also praised the freshman backstop as a mature player for someone so young, knowing when to play the ball and come off his line to kick-start an offensive move, and when to lay back. The idea that a good defense is often the best offense was key to Shelter Island’s success.

As for offense, “We had a lot of kids pushing the pace upfront,” the coach said. One of those players was Jaxson Rylott, who led the team with 26 goals, followed by Harrison Weslek, who scored 15.

These two students were instrumental in bringing back a storied athletic program, lobbying the School District for a return to organized soccer. The administration and faculty members — especially  Jimbo Theinert — heard the case and enthusiastically supported their idea and made the team a reality.

With the season in the books, Coach Conrardy has challenged his team to participate in an active post-season by developing skills through clinics; joining travel teams; continuing fitness programs; checking out online tutorials; and participating in informal scrimmages.

One other statistic shows the hard work, skill and teamwork that the Island soccer team demonstrated under Coach Conrardy. According to Education Week, the chance of success for the first year of a high school sport is  between 22% and 28%. The Islanders beat that number handily, and, as the coach said, “Went beyond all of our expectations.”