The YU men’s and women’s soccer teams will be playing a number of their home games at Votee Park. By the time you are reading this, the park will have hosted a Division III-level soccer game between YU and Fisher College (Massachusetts). Tickets for the soccer games are free and one can get a ticket at the gate.
The Journey to Votee Park
How did YU end up at Votee Park? Mark Schwartz (co-founder and co-publisher of the Jewish Link) is a Teaneck councilman and played a key role in the negotiations to bring the YU teams to the park. He said of the deal, “It’s a no-brainer and one of those rare occasions where everyone wins.” Schwartz credited those members of the council—Mayor Lizette Parker, Deputy Mayor Elie Katz, Former Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, former deputy mayor Yitz Stern, and former Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen—who were responsible for the recent refurbishing of Votee Park, which made it viable for a college soccer team. YU will be paying for use of the park and will have made a home for its soccer teams.
Joshua Pransky, YU Men’s Soccer Coach and assistant athletic director for recruiting and alumni relationships, is ecstatic about the school’s new home at Votee Park. He noted that the school will play the majority of its games/practices at Votee Park (Teaneck soccer has first dibs on the park). This is the first time that YU soccer has ever had any sort of home field.
Steve Pudell is a 1991 alumnus of YU who played on the soccer team in 1987. Last year, Pudell and his two teenage sons went to a YU soccer game at Fairleigh Dickinson University (the team played a few of its home games there). They enjoyed the game as YU played a competitive and smart game. Pudell, proud of his alma mater, sent an email to Coach Pransky complimenting the coach and the team. He also noted that he would be happy to help in any way he could. Coach Pransky responded and the two spoke. During the conversation, the challenges about the lack of home field came up. The fact that this was an issue was no surprise to Pudell, “When I played, we struggled. The fact that we had no regular place to play was a hindrance to the program.” Ultimately, Pudell suggested Votee Park as an option. Meetings with town officials, including Schwartz, were arranged and the deal was made.
Home Sweet Home
“I’m thrilled and my players are thrilled. Everyone here is loving this arrangement,” said Pransky. And why not? After all, Pransky noted that in past years the team has played in multiple fields each year with as few as 10 fans watching the game. Driving around looking for games or practice was draining and imparted a lack of stability. All of this led Pransky on a search for a place to call home. He believes that Votee Park and Teaneck are the right place for the team. By the way, this year’s team includes two players from Teaneck: Avi Baron and Rafi Friedman.
Pransky is a 2010 graduate of Yeshiva University where he played baseball and soccer. He became the assistant men’s soccer coach in 2010, the interim head coach 2012 and the head coach in 2013 as well as the assistant athletic director. The 2014 team was the first one in school history to finish above.500 with a record of 10-7-1. Pransky believes this year’s team can be even more successful. “We believe we can make the Skyline Conference championship game this year.” Pransky and the entire team are focused on the championship. Despite the success of last year’s team, other coaches in the Skyline Conference picked YU to finish eighth in a conference of 11. “We want to go into every game and have teams underestimate us and then change their mind after the game.”
YU Sports is on the Rise
One of the reasons that the soccer team is on the upswing is recruiting. According to Pransky, the first time YU had recruiting was 2012. He recruits from yeshiva high schools, public schools and prep schools and internationally. Pransky says one draw for the public school, prep school and international students is a desire to learn more about Judaism. Add that to the fact that YU is a top-50 school with great Jewish life, excellent rebbeim and professors, and a wide set of interesting classes and Pransky feels confident that he can draw athletes to the university. As a Division III school, Pransky says he can’t sell the university on sports alone.
Pransky is equally optimistic about YU athletics as a whole. “We feel, on so many levels, that YU athletics are just scratching the surface.” This optimism is not limited to Pransky. “Every department and administrator thinks we can create something special here. There’s a belief and expectation that we can be competitive across all fronts [every sport].” That excitement runs through Pransky’s mind when he thinks of the coming soccer season. He dreams of stands packed with fans watching the YU men’s soccer team compete in the playoffs.
So, consider going out to Votee Park and supporting the YU team. You’ll see a competitive team playing the game and doing things the right way right here in Teaneck/Bergen County. Check out http://www.yumacs.com/schedule.aspx?path=msoc to find out when you can catch the YU Men’s soccer team at Votee Park.
By Larry Bernstein