By Thomas Houghton
The Suffolk Community College Men’s Soccer team looks to make the playoffs a magical time at the Selden campus. The team is currently ranked number one in the nation with an impressive 15-0-2 record.
The team entered Saturday’s match against their rivals Nassau Community College. Not only was this a huge game for them but they were also playing away because of issues off the field with one of their starters. One of Suffolk’s players, whose name will not be stated, was accused of playing professionally in his home country of Colombia. Under the National Junior College Athletic Association this is not allowed. When the NJCAA first heard about this they were going to cancel Suffolk’s season, but thanks to the hard work of Coach Frank Vertullo and Athletic Director Kevin Foley, their magical season continued.
The Clippers would serve a penalty and would have to play without one of their starters and were forced to play away, instead of at home. The men were going to Nassau with a chip on their shoulder and ready to go and win a Regional Championship on Nassau’s home turf. Nassau’s field was a little different. Nassau had a turf field which would make the ball move much quicker, and the Suffolk men were not used to it because their home field is grass.
“This game is a big one, we lost last year and I still haven’t fully gotten over it. We have a few seniors here this year who know how tough it is to lose, and I like our chances today,” Vertullo said.
When the first whistle blew Nassau made it clear that they weren’t afraid of Suffolk at all. They were firing on all cylinders, and Suffolk was holding on to keep the game close.
Suffolk’s center midfielder Lervis Reyes said, “They came out on fire, we weren’t expecting it.”
Twenty minutes into the game Nassau scored the first goal. The ball was crossed into the box and Nassau’s Thomas Garcia tapped it in for an early 1-0 lead. This was only the second time all year the Suffolk Men’s soccer team was playing from behind. It was a very unfamiliar feeling and it showed as the game went on.
“Once they scored we totally went away from our game. We were playing kick and run, when we usually always possess the ball and move it around. We were playing in a frantic mode when we had all the time in the world left in the game to come back,” Vertullo said.
Nassau’s lead would get bigger when Garcia found the back of the net almost exactly the way he did with the first goal. A ball was crossed into the box and he belted it home for a 2-0 lead.
Suffolk would go into halftime trailing 2-0, and having to come back from their biggest deficit of the year. Coach Moussa Sy said, “I told the boys to calm down, we still have another 45 minutes left to play. We needed an early goal to get Nassau on their heels and the second one would come.”
The start of the second half began and the Suffolk Men’s team just couldn’t figure out a way to score. They had some chances but just couldn’t capitalize. In the 29th minute of the second half Suffolk’s Cesar Velasquez committed a foul in the 18 yard box, giving Nassau a penalty kick. Garcia would take it and score, giving him his 3rd goal of the game and ultimately ending Suffolk’s season. The final whistle blew and Nassau celebrated the Region Championship win over Suffolk.
The Suffolk team was heartbroken and just sat and watched as if this wasn’t real. Suffolk’s Matt Starin said, “Back to back years of losing when ranked number one in the nation is just a terrible feeling. We all wanted a national championship so bad, and too come up short was never in our heads.”
“It’s just a bad feeling. I feel bad for the seniors who have to leave without ever going to the national championship, but hopefully as they move on to four year schools they can experience a great deal of success. As for myself and the freshman we have a lot of unfinished business, and were going to get ready to win a national championship next season,” Vertullo said.