By Ashlee Oakley

On a sunny August morning, the SGI boys’ soccer teams are practicing dutifully beside Springville’s elementary and middle schools. All of the soccer coaches are in agreement: they are happy they have full teams and they’re ready to get their game on!

Tom Szczerbacki, physical education teacher for Colden Elementary and varsity soccer coach, was happy to speak about his high expectations for the 2016 Varsity team.

He says, “We have to work hard – we do have to work on some things, but I’m looking to have a really nice year.”

He goes on to say he has fantastic kids on the team; diligent workers and team players who get along well and are cohesive as they continue improving on their records.

“The kids we added this year will only help us improve. We have a really great group of guys.”

Szczerbacki stresses that “the most important thing for me is, if we go out there, we work hard, we compete at a high level, give ourselves a chance to win and we represent Springville and this team, we’re doing it the right way.”

Szczerbacki says they have had a few incredibly favorable weeks of practice at this point, and he feels like this is the year that the Griffins Varsity soccer team will be some truly stiff competition.

He’s expecting some great plays out of Anthony Smith,  who, he said, “could be a really significant player for us this year” Smith will play mid-field and is expected to be a primary scoring striker for this year’s team. “My seniors who have been here, playing for a couple years- I’m looking for them to really step up. They need to learn to be the leaders.”

Playing team sports is beneficial in preparing each individual player to be a decisive and cooperative forerunner, putting them in the frame of mind for the very real certainty of adulthood. As for the younger kids that have advanced recently from JV, Szczerbacki says, “I want them to step up, too; this is a great opportunity for them, and hopefully we can just keep building and growing as a team.”

JV Outlook

JV Coach Marty Niefergold gives his team a pep-talk, then puts them into their positions to play a practice game without his intervention. A substitute teacher and soccer coach, Niefergold was also previously on the North Collins School Board for five years, but he’s enjoying cutting back to be able to focus on coaching.

Mike Spagnola, JV team captain, stands out as an impressive mid-fielder. Niefergold says, “Honestly, they’re all great kids – they’re all into it, they listen well. I’d take kids who are well behaved but maybe not as skilled, rather than very skilled kids that are high maintenance.”

Some impressive goals were both made and defended during the exercise, all players handling the game cooperatively and on their own as Niefergold described last year’s season and his hopes for this year.

“Our record wasn’t great last year, but we played some really great games. Our last game, at Cheektowaga, we had about 50 shots on goal, but we couldn’t get any to go in. They got one in the back of our net and scored. One to nothing. But we still played great.”

Niefergold expects that if the JV team is giving its all, building their soccer skills will surely develop further . And, he notes that some well-timed growth spurts over the summer will surely help. With a new transfer, players moving up from modified soccer, and his returning tenth graders making up a strong team as the JV Griffins, Niefergold views the upcoming season with cheerful optimism.


When asked what the focus of his coaching has been, Coach Casey Bucco (modified soccer, grades 7 and 8) says, “It’s mostly fundamentals, just learning how to play the game.” He works on many basic foot skills, such as passing and trapping.

“We never really know how each year will go. Once we’re pretty solid on the fundamentals, we move on to how to play the game successfully.”

Bucco does typically ask what position the players would prefer, and will rotate through if he sees a need for changes in formation.

“I kind of let them go where they want.  I’d prefer if they were happy playing the position they are at,” he says.

With basic learning techniques, and a calm and composed disposition, Bucco is setting his players up to succeed as they move into JV, then Varsity.

All three coaches love to see the players move up through the ranks, keeping the bonds through the years as the teams and friendships grow.

If you would like to see any of your Griffins soccer teams play, their first games are as follows: Varsity plays Lackawanna at home on Sept. 7 at 4:30 p.m. behind the Springville Middle School, JV plays Lackawanna at home on Sept. 7 at 4:30 p.m. behind the Springville Elementary School, and Modified plays at East Aurora at 4:30 p.m. in Knox Field. Modified’s first home game is October 1 against Eden at 10 a.m. behind Springville Middle School.

For more information, see the “Athletics” tab on the Springville-GI district website. Come out and support your up-and-coming Griffins Boys soccer teams. They are hard working teams led by coaches who care about our local boys, and would be thrilled to have the encouragement of the Springville community!