M.A.T. school teams rise in the fall


What a fall sports season it was for the Manhattan Academy of Technology Middle School Dragons. Not only did the Lower East Side school field it’s first ever soccer program for both boys and girls, the all-girls team was the first ever in the city public school middle school history.

With a total of over 120 students participating in the fall season, M.A.T. enjoyed it’s biggest start to the school year ever in terms of athletics.

“We encourage all our children to participate in after-school athletics, and there is always a spot on every team for any child that wants to come out for a team,” said coach John De Matteo, the school’s athletic director and physical education teacher. “This year alone, I am proud to say that we have over 70% of our middle school participating in a sport, a trend I know will continue in the years to come.”


The girls soccer team, which created a trend in city by fielding the first ever girls team, was able to lead three other schools to create teams as well, marking the first ever girls public school middle school soccer league. M.A.T. won the league in an exciting final game vs. LAB middle school. Also fielding teams this year on the girls side were Salk and East Side. The M.A.T. Dragons were led by the scoring duo of Tafari McKenzie and Ellen Mullan Jayes, who played strong at forward all year long. Finishing out terrific play on offense were Michelle Lopez, Daniella Azulai, Destini Torres, Alinda Nicaj, Shakirra Harewood and Felicia Rivera.

The defense was led by Alice Fornari, Ashley Thomas, Ashley De La Cruz, Ravcen Marcano and Salina Goodman. Fornari was excellent in goal all year long, never allowing more than one goal in a public school game. “Our defense was excellent this year, and considering we have so many players returning, the girls should enjoy another great season next year,” De Matteo said. “We’re going to continue to lobby for more schools to field all girls teams and hopefully girls soccer will blossom in other middle schools as well, creating an even bigger public school league.”

The boys soccer team, led by eighth graders Pedro Wynkoop, Victor Hernandez, Jarrett Lettieri and Qi Chen fielded a very young team and competed in the N.Y.C. public school boys league for the first time ever.

Going up against more experienced soccer teams was a learning experience for the boys, but as coach De Matteo and coach Mark Bader added, “the boys showed tremendous sportsmanship and encouraged each other all season long, never getting down on anyone and always trying to lift the spirits of the team up, which is the true meaning of sports in the long run.”

The team looks to next year, when it will return most of it’s starting lineup, including standout players Daniel Sexton, Westin Loving, goalie Fu Kong Wen, James Stefanik, Michael Natenzon, Michael Herman, Chris Johnson, and Reed Bakirjty.

Cross country

For the boys and girls cross country and track & field team, which competes all year long, the start of the season was nothing short of spectacular. Competing in several cross country meets and track and field events, the team, which is sponsored by the New York Road Runners Foundation in coalition with CHAMPS middle school, had several standout performances. At the Central Park One Miler, the girls and boys took top honors, with TJ Fraser winning the meet in a time of 6:40 and Tafari McKenzie right behind him, winning for the girls in a time of 6:41.

“I’m very proud of all of my runners, and I could not have asked for more as a coach. They work hard in practice and have great attitudes. I told them in the beginning that if they can commit to the kind of work that it takes to be a better runner, then they will also be able to commit to the kind of work that it takes to be successful in anything in life,” coach De Matteo said. In the last meet of the season, M.A.T. had a record 13 runners run 5 miles in under an hour, a number that De Matteo hopes will grow in the following months.

Tafari McKenzie, Patty Rosa, Johnny Rosa, Daniella Azulai, Taylor Myers, Malo Le Flem, Nick Karam, Corin Squaw, Kaylee Cimino, Joshua Rosedietcher, Andy Bell Bataci, Jorge Diaz and Nick Shannon rounded out top times in the 5 mile race. The team looks forward to more great meets, culminating with the Region 9 Track & Field Series in the spring, involving over 100 schools from the region and over 15,000 children.

De Matteo said, “I could not be happier with the effort that my students have shown me this past fall season…. We aim to provide more opportunities for our children in athletics and have them learn that a physical education is as important as an academic one. Really, the two go hand in hand. We stress in our school the importance of being a student athlete and the word ‘student’ comes first. Our kids are better for being students and athletes.”