LOWVILLE — Tate Smith is entering his fourth season of varsity play with the Lowville boys soccer team and has emerged as a leader, employing a physical style of play as well as a scoring touch.
Peyton Munger, a football player who is also a senior, has never played soccer before, but tried out for the team with the encouragement of Smith and Erik Gronowski, a pair of friends.
All three are reunited on the soccer team this fall in preparing for what will be an unusual season amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s great, we’re glad to get back out here,” Smith said. “It’s a lot different then it was before COVID, but it’s nice to get back out here with my friends and my teammates, since we haven’t been able to all summer and things like that.”
Munger would normally be playing on the Red Raiders’ football team as a lineman, but since football season was pushed back to spring because of the coronavirus, he suddenly had some free time.
“I know that soccer has a lot of conditioning,” Munger said. “And I know a quite a few people on the team, a bunch of fun, cool guys, so I just thought it would be a good experience just to be able and get out and actually play a season of soccer instead of football season.
“Because hopefully we’ll be able to still play football in March.”
Lowville is one of only four schools from the Frontier League — all from Lewis County — who will compete in soccer, joining Beaver River, Copenhagen and South Lewis.
After soccer, considered a low-risk sport, was pushed back to late September by the New York Public High School Athletic Association, area teams had their first day of practice Sept. 21.
Now after teams scrimmaged for the first time Friday, each will begin an eight-game league schedule beginning Wednesday, with Lowville opening its season, playing at 7 p.m. at South Lewis.
“It’s not ideal, I didn’t expect it to go like this,” Smith said. “But I’d rather have the season with us playing three schools and only (eight) games then not playing at all.”
With a revamped slate, Lowville will play Copenhagen and South Lewis three times and Beaver River twice in a condensed slate that runs through Oct. 30.
“Our senior night is next week, so I’m pretty excited about that,” Smith said. “It’s not going to be the same with no fans, obviously, I mean we’ll have some, but not like we usually do. We get two per person.”
“There’s definitely a little bit more of a rivalry between schools that are right next to us, between Beaver River and South Lewis and Copenhagen,” Smith said. “I personally know a lot of people from all those schools and it’s also fun, because we don’t get to play Copenhagen usually, so it will be nice to get a feel for what their team is like and what kind of plays they run.”
Smith, Gronowski and Munger are three of only four seniors on Lowville’s soccer team, a program that lost 13 seniors to graduation.
The versatile Smith has played nearly every position on the field, besides goalie, and provided the team with an offensive spark last year.
As a junior, Smith tallied 13 goals and assisted on five others after totaling seven goals and an assist as a sophomore.
“I do enjoy both, outside mid is little bit more grunt work then a skillful position,” Smith said. “But I’m working hard anywhere I play.”
Smith has played mostly at forward, but also in the midfield, which usually requires different responsibilities.
“I think part of that is he has been with the program so long,” Red Raiders coach Nick Matuszczak said of Smith. “He knows how things run and sort of our expectations when we’re out here ... And he has a great personality where he’s not afraid to speak his mind sometimes, which can absolutely be a benefit to try and get everyone on the same page.”
With 13 underclassmen on the team, Smith’s duties as a team leader will be relied upon more this season.
“On the field, I just feel like I’m a team leader,” Smith said. “I’m very loud when I’m on the field and I like for people to know where they’re supposed to be at all times, in a respectful manner. I like it when people are loud and let me know where they are and I let them know where I am, it makes things run a lot smoother.
“I feel like I’m out here to lead the team, especially as a fourth-year varsity player and as a senior. I just kind of assume that role that like I’m here to help the guys that are younger than me get better then they already are.”
Smith and Gronowski will both likely play as outside midfielders this year for the Red Raiders, Matuszczak said.
“Historically, he’s played up front for us, this year I’m looking at him as more of an outside mid because he is big and strong and one of our better athletes in terms of getting up and down the field,” Matuszczak said. “So he can help out defensively, because are a fairly inexperienced team, so I’m hoping he can embrace that role and realize that he may not score as many goals as he’s used to, but it’s really where we need him this year to be successful.”
Munger is already enjoying his time with the soccer team this year as he’s looking at it as a new adventure.
“It’s completely different,” Munger said. “As a lineman, I’m programmed to just sprint and rest, sprint and rest. And with this, you just have to be constant jogging and you don’t get much of a rest.”
He continued: “I’ve been training all summer for football, lifting weights, doing footwork, doing all my lineman stuff. But I’m hoping it’s still in March, so I’m kind of using soccer as like as another activity to get me even more prepared for football and have a good time while doing it.”
“I really love soccer, if it was in a different season, I would have played it,” Munger said. “This is my first experience with soccer.
As a junior, Munger played on both sides of the ball as a lineman in football in his first year on the varsity.
“Some games I started, I started two out of the 11 regular-season games,” Munger said. “In the playoffs, I didn’t start, but I was out on the field quite a bit.”
The Red Raiders went on to win a Class C sectional championship in football with a 41-6 victory over Cato-Meridian and reached the state quarterfinals.
“It was a great experience,” Munger said of the sectional title in football and beyond. “There was a lot of energy and we all worked really hard for it. It was a great time.”
He was influenced to try soccer by both Smith and Gronowski, who also plays on the basketball team with Munger.
“I tried to get a couple more guys from football to play, but everybody just kind of thought I was joking at first,” Munger said. “But I wasn’t joking, I’ve been here everyday doing what coach asks me and I’ve put in the work.”
Smith and Munger are also hoping to pursue careers in the medical field as both attend the New Vision Health program held at BOCES in Lewis County.
“Both of my parents are physical therapists, so the medical field is something I’ve been around my whole life,” Smith said. “It’s just like classes like anatomy and human biology and stuff like that, it’s always just interested me, and I’ve always had a want to learn more about how the body works and how to help other people.
“And just the idea of doing something different everyday.”
“Me and Tate just became really good friends this year because we take New Vision together, it’s a small class at BOCES, so we’re always around each other,” Munger said. “And me and Erik have been best friends for three years now.”
Munger continued: “It’s like health careers. We learn about the medical field, it’s like an anatomy class, too, and we get to go to the hospital a couple days a week. We get to switch in and out in different parts of the hospital. We also go to Carthage Hospital as part of the class.”
Smith has aspirations to become a nurse and plans to pursue studies in that field in college.
“I’m going to be a nursing major, so it’s a very rigorous course,” Smith said. “I want to go and get my four-year degree to be an RN and then either work for a few years or go back to school immediately to get my nurse practitioner (degree). I’m hoping I can get a PhD.”
Munger hopes to study physical therapy and has applied to Utica College in order to do so.
“I want to be a physical therapist, that’s what I’ve wanted to do for a couple years now,” Munger said. “I think my future goals might change, just seeing all the other fields in the hospital, but that’s my mindset right now.”
The Lowville soccer team has striven to follow COVID-19 guidelines during practices as players have their temperatures taken before practice, masks are worn, which will also be the case in games, and there are regular water breaks during practices.
“It’s been good, when they come we take their temperatures and we go through COVID screening, making sure that everyone has been good,” Matuszczak said. “It’s nice to have the support of the community where everyone has been able to get rides in to get to practices and be able to work that out. That has been a big focus of the district is equity in access, so all the kids can get to practices to have the opportunity to participate.”
“Water breaks are separated, you have to be 6 feet apart from everyone,” Smith said. “But it full time practices, I mean we’re careful about it because we don’t want to be shut down or anything like that. But we’re just doing our best to play normal soccer and get a feel for what it’s going to be like when games start up.”
Here’s a look at the Frontier League in soccer this fall:
Beaver River Beavers
Coach: Brian Zehr (2nd year)
2019 record: 7-10, 6-9 Frontier League.
Players to watch: Lincoln Becker, Trey Brown, Connor Dickenson, David Duell, Micaiah Landis, Andrew Walseman.
Roster: Lincoln Becker (Sr.), Trey Brown (Sr.), Connor Dickenson (Sr.), Micaiah Landis (Sr.), Andrew Walseman (Sr.), David Duell (Jr.), Jaiden Kline (Jr.), Gabe Gallo (So.), Montana Grunert (So.), Ayden Moser (So.), Sawyer Schwendy (So.), Karson Smith (So.), Jedediah Zehr (So.), Andrew Chartrand (Fr.), Sam Landis (Fr.).
Copenhagen Golden Knights
Coach: Logan Spaulding (1st year)
2019 record: 4-10-1, 4-8-1.
Players to watch: Cody Powis, Lukas Slate, Shareef Stokely.
Roster: Joshua Freeman (Sr.), Lucas Graves (Sr.), Clayton Parkin (Sr.), Cody Powis (Sr.), Lukas Slate (Sr.), Dakota Snyder (Sr.), Shareef Stokely (Sr.), Garrett Tufo (Sr.), Chase Aubin (Jr.), Andrew Carroll (Jr.), Bryant Carter (Jr.), Tanion Jacobs (Jr.), Adam Ortega (Jr.), Joseph Ferguson (So.), Jesse Jones (So.), Joshua L’Huillier (So.), Hayden McAtee (So.), Dylan Petrie (So.), Garret Walker (So.), Tavian Camper (Fr.), Caden Miller (Fr.), Chase Nevills (Fr.), Casey Powis (Fr.), Landon Sullivan (Fr.).
Lowville Red Raiders
Coach: Nick Matuszczak (9th year)
2019 record: 6-10-1, 5-6-1.
Players to watch: Christian Dunckel, John McGrath, Tate Smith.
Roster: Erik Gronowski (Sr.), Jonathan McGrath (Sr.), Peyton Munger (Sr.), Tate Smith (Sr.), Isaiah Biro (Jr.), Christian Dunckel (Jr.), Carter Green (Jr.), Jeremiah Krop (Jr.), Jeremie Lehmann (Jr.), Colton Simpson (Jr.), Caden Turck (Jr.), Sam VanBuren (Jr.), Ryan Young (Jr.), Brody Brown (So.), Merric Laribee (So.), Andre Meleshchuk (So), Espen Matuszczak (Fr.).
South Lewis Falcons
Coach: Jeremy Youngs (1st year)
2019 record: 15-2-1, 13-2.
Players to watch: Ethan Bush, Trevor Griffith, Nolan Kraeger, Devan Maurer, Drew Maurer, Jacob Worden, Brecken Yager.
Roster: Ian Anderson (Sr., C/F), Marshall Dorrity (Sr., C/FB), Trevor Griffith (Sr., SW), Devan Maurer 12 (Sr., FOR/F), Collin Randall (Sr., FB), Hewson Burd (Jr., F/FB), Ethan Bush (Jr., HB), Cameron Evans (Jr., F/HB), Nolan Kraeger (Jr., HB), Parker Kristoff (Jr., G), Jacob Worden (Jr., F), Brecken Yager (Jr., HB/FB), Drew Maurer (So., HB), Aiden McGuire (So., FB), Aiden Sampson (Fr., HB), Isaac Gibson (Fr., FB), Gunnar Griffith (Fr., FB), Marek Morrison (Fr., F).
Beaver River Beavers
Coach: Melanie Marriott (3rd year)
2019 record: 8-6-2, 7-5-2.
Players to watch: Alexia Clemons, Chelsea Greenwood, Shae Marriott, Brenna Mast, Emma Roggie, Courtney Terry.
Roster: Lauryn Bennett (Sr., M), Lillia Campeau (Sr., M), Alexia Clemons (Sr., G/M), Mikayla Garrison (Sr., M), Chelsea Greenwood (Sr., D), Shae Marriott (Sr., D), Mafalda Matias (Sr., F), Laura Metzler (Sr., M), Eva St. Croix (Sr., D), Courtney Terry (Sr., D), Avery Olmstead (Jr., F), Emma Roggie (Jr., M), Makenna Simmons (Jr., D), Abigail VanCour (Jr., M), Brenna Mast (So., M), Kaylee Zehr (So., F).
Copenhagen Golden Knights
Coach: Charity Smykla (4th year)
2019 record: 16-1-3, 14-0-1.
Players to watch: Allison Best, Raegan Dalrymple, Meaghen Fitzpatrick, Aubree Smykla, Brooke Smykla.
Roster: Allison Best (Sr.), Meaghen Fitzpatrick (Sr.), Brooke Smykla (Sr.), Allison Villeneuve (Sr.), Charli Carroll (Jr.), Raegan Dalrymple (Jr.), Jordyn Nevills (Jr.), Alyssa Fitzpatrick (So.), Kaityln Goutermout (So.), Aubree Smykla (So.), Taryn Twombley (So.), Aliza Villeneuve (So.), Madison Cheek (Fr.), Samantha Stokely (Fr.), Claire Jones (Fr.).
Lowville Red Raiders
Coach: Leo Sammon (33rd year)
2019 record: 13-3-1, 10-0-1.
Players to watch: N/A.
Roster: Kelsey Beyer (Sr.), Kadyn Miller (Sr.), Sydney Vannest (Sr.), Eliana Bonbrest (Jr.), Olivia Brandel (Jr.), Annie Cayer (Jr.), Emma Dening (Jr.), Hannah Gyore (Jr.), Madison Houppert (Jr.), Jane Jennings (Jr.), Kyla Reed (Jr.), Cenna Swan (Jr.), Peyton Cole (So.), Jada Lee (So.), Carli Freeman (Fr.).
South Lewis Falcons
Coach: Kari Gehrke (1st year)
2019 record: 0-14-1, 0-13-1.
Players to watch: Harleigh Dorrity, Leah Greene, Barbara Plato, Sophia Sabatini.
Roster: Kallie Bauter (Sr., D/M), Miranda Bourgeois (Sr., F), Harleigh Dorrity (Sr., F/G), Courtney Ebersol (Sr., D), Grace Mear (Sr., F), Lauren McGuire (Sr., M/F), Sophia Sabatini (Sr., M/F), Jayden Greene (Jr., M/D), Morgan Kogut (Jr., M), Jada Pominville (Jr., M), Emily Wright (Jr., F/G), Jordan Dorrity (So., F/M), Leah Greene (So., F), Breycee Farr (So., D), Barbara Plato (So., D), Carin Young (So., F).