NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - When Francesco Notaristefano transitioned as coach of the New Rochelle JV soccer team and took over the 2-14 girl’s varsity team, expectations were low for a struggling program.
Three years later, Notaristefano has his team as a perennial playoff contender that has caught the eyes of the community and his fellow coaches, culminating with the announcement he has been named the Coach of the Year of the Section 1 Class AA conference 1 League B following a 11-4-1 second place finish in the league.
Although his team fell short in the semifinals against Mahopac this year, Notaristefano praised his team for embracing a new system when he took over, citing the outgoing senior class, which “left the team in good hands.”
“It’s just been hard work on the girl’s behalf and the commitment of them to make the problem successful and important in the community. They bought in and showed that hard work pays off,” he said. “We started building a team identify and building a winning culture that kids want to be a part of.
“The community has been super supportive, and we’ve had real big crowds at our games. People are walking around town, asking about how the season is going - girls want to be a part of that. And it’s a real credit to the juniors and seniors.”
Each year, the Coach of the Year award is voted on by coaches in the league. Historically, the award goes to the head of the league champion, but in light of the transformation the team has undergone under Notaristefano, they voted for the coach whose team finished second in the league.
“I won the award, but if it wasn’t for the players, I never would have gotten it,” Notaristefano said. “I’m just driving the bus, they’re doing the work to change the program.”
New Rochelle High School Athletic Director Steve Young praised Notaristefano and his assistant coach David Horn for helping overhaul the program.
“He’s been a tremendous addition to the coaching staff,” he said. “He embraces the philosophy of the school district and athletic department, and he has the best interest of the girls in mind while making decisions.”
Notaristefano said that since taking over in 2013, the support for the team has any grown exponentially, with an assist from the boys soccer team, which never misses a home game, and community at large, who have “flocked to the games.”
“It’s pretty cool when you walk around town and you’d never hear about them before, but now people are talking about the girls varsity soccer team. These girls are becoming role models in the community,” he said. “Our girls are all extremely academic, the definition of a student-athlete, achieving on the field and in the classroom.
“All of this has helped to build a great sense of community. A lot of the kids play on outside club teams, but there’s only one time you can play for your town, or for your high school. So no matter where they play club, they’ll be a Huguenot for life.”
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