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Boys Varsity Soccer: A Team with Deep Bonds

By Olivia Tuzel

With the fall sport season now in the past and the resurfacing of winter sports, there comes a time for reflection. The autumn season was more than successful in terms of athletics: accomplishments after accomplishments were achieved, limits were pushed, and records were shattered. Yet, White Plains High School would not have so much pride in the school’s athletes if it were not for the Boys Varsity Soccer Team.

Winning League for the third consecutive year, the WPBVS team ensured that both the turf and opposing teams knew what was coming their way. The team ended their season with a total of 13 wins, one tie, and five losses: a record that the boys view as a tremendous improvement from last year. In hopes of climbing even further, the team headed down onto Loucks Field on October 27th to play against New Rochelle in the Sectionals semi-final. Unfortunately, the team suffered a loss with a final score of 2-1. Rhaymani Alexander (no. 16) scored the only goal, assisted by Gael Baraldi. Despite the defeat, the players are proud of how the last couple of months have gone and acknowledge that their efforts are going to be what the future soccer Varsity teams will strive to reach.

To get an overall view of the thoughts of those within the WPBVS bubble, Coach Lambert (head coach) and three of the team’s captains were asked for their opinions on this year’s performance and hopes for the 2023 Varsity Boys Soccer team.

“I was proud and happy of our performance this season, despite losing in the Sectional Semi-finals,” Coach Lambert said. “The boys put in a lot of work this summer, as we participated in a summer league at Lakeland HS in June and July. The boys lost in the semi-finals of that league but showed tremendous growth in that time. I feel it was extremely valuable heading into our fall season... The boys have left their mark and achieved milestones that we haven’t seen in years. We had four players who received All-Section honors: Rhaymani Alexander, Andrew Fajardo, Jair Cano, and Gael Baraldi.”

Captain Andrew Fajardo said, “[We] definitely had a pretty amazing season from getting eliminated first round last year to making the semifinal this year; it’s definitely a huge improvement.” Captains Jair Cano and Gael Baraldi agreed that despite the ups and downs the team endured, the season still went well with the “special group of boys."

Even with a large group, the boys know how to make the team feel like home. “The bond we had was definitely brotherhood/family. I truly love every single one of those boys, so, overall, I think we had a season to remember,” said Andrew.

“Being a captain for this 2022/23 squad was amazing,” Jair said. “It was a good feeling to be called one of the leaders on the team, I loved being part of this team and making memories with them on and off the field.” Gael added, “I enjoyed being part of such a good group of people…”

With 18 seniors on the team (10 of whom are starters), next year’s WPBVS team will be ready for new players.

“With the quality of our underclassmen, I feel we will yet again be a competitive team. As always, a League Title and deep run into the Sectional Tournament will be our goals,” said Coach Lambert.

The boys spend time with one another from August to November, so friendship and bonding is valued more than anything else. “My hope for this squad is to continue being friends, reconnecting, and building more memories,” said Gael. Jair responded, “My hopes for the 2023 season are for the boys to still be the friends (if not even better friends) they are today, give it their all next year, and have a good season.”

“I think the boys will do well but it’s going to take some time for them to click because of so many newcomers,” said Andrew. “Yet, I think they can bring league back to WP and have another picture the wall.”

The departure of so many seniors weighs heavily on them and on the underclassmen. The additional time devoted to the sport not only helped them to improve, push themselves, and further expand their love for soccer, but players also had the chance to forge new connections among their teammates. Such connection is clear between Captains Jair Cano and Gael Baraldi (both of whom are seniors). Each gave the other a shoutout, referring to one another as their “dynamic duo partner” because they have stuck together through thick and thin throughout their years at WPHS and on the team.

“It was fun spending three of the four years on Varsity with my best friend Gael— we went from reaching the section final sophomore year in our 2020/21 season with another great group of boys to being seniors. Growing from that, he is an amazing player and playing with him was the best. I wish him the best in college,” Jair said.

“Representing this school with the best guy I know: Captain Jair Cano has been great and [someone I’ll] always remember,” said Gael. “I love what we have been through since sophomore year, and I have much appreciation for him as a friend, as a player, as my teammate.”

Coach Lambert and all the captains thank White Plains for the heaps of support WPBVS has received from the community, something that they will never forget. The three boys wish the future teams the best of luck for the next years, encouraging for all future players to hold tight, win, and just learn to love the sport that they play.

"The Orange" sends its good wishes to the seniors. White Plains High School would not be what we know it as today if it were not for all of you boys and your dedication to making sure that Tiger Pride always shines on the field.

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