Milt Valerio's long, storied career as East Syracuse-Minoa's girls varsity soccer coach is near the twilight, but not before another milestone was reached.
In front of the home folks at Spartan Stadium last Thursday night, Valerio achieved his 400th career victory, watching his ESM squad score twice in the second half to earn a 3-1 victory over the Chittenango Bears.
When it was done, all the rituals were in order, from the players dumping a bucket of ice water on Valerio to the awarding of a game ball, signed by every player, plus a cake in his honor.
Way back in 1979, Valerio became head coach at ESM, back when Section III's championship structure for female athletics was still in its development stages.
Over time, Valerio proved to be a master teacher of the game, as the Spartans contended year after year, even as one of the smallest schools in Class A, the largest classification for much of his tenure. Of ESM's six sectional championships, five were achieved at the Class A level.
For his career, Valerio has a record of 400-129-36, meaning that ESM has won nearly 71 percent of the games he has coached. Often, it's been done with teams that weren't expected to do great things, such as a 2007 squad that has just six seniors.
Throughout the first half on this special night, ESM kept pace with Chittenango. Andrea Reidman scored to match the tally by Chittenango's Brittney Tirabassi, and the teams went to the break tied, 1-1.
But the Spartans, having lost earlier in the week to Homer, were not going to wait any longer for this milestone for their long-time mentor.
Twice in the second half, ESM found the net, as Kara MacDougall and Stacie Wall put in goals that helped seal victory.
The Spartans nearly got that 400th win in last Monday's game at Homer, but the defending Class A champion Trojans prevailed in overtime, 2-1.
Alicia Vasiloff scored in the first half, off a feed from Nicole Blair, but Kaylee Benz answered for Homer, and they went through the second half still even, 1-1.
In the first of two 10-minute overtime periods, Homer's Erika Trivisonno hit a shot that eluded ESM goalie Clarissa Ficarro, and that margin would hold up through the rest of OT.
On Monday, the Spartans (4-3, 2-3 league) go to Mexico, beginning a busy week that also includes home games against Jamesville-DeWitt and Cortland.