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Title turnaround for Central Islip boys soccer

The Central Islip boys soccer team.

The Central Islip boys soccer team. (Credit: Central Islip High School)

It’s likely the biggest surprise of the season in Suffolk high school boys soccer, and the Central Islip team is hopeful the revelation continues beyond Tuesday afternoon.

For the first time since 1994, according to head coach Johnny Velez, Central Islip won a league title when it clinched the top spot in League II earlier this month. The Musketeers (12-2), a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in six years, Velez said, will host Newfield on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.

After going 3-9 in league play last year, Central Islip earned the No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament.

"To see how this has evolved, I mean, it’s wonderful because you can see it on the players’ faces,” Velez said. “You can see it in their smiles. We met our goals in re-establishing this program.”

A main reason for the restoration and success, especially according to opposing coaches, has been the play of Christian Villalta. The sophomore striker scored 16 goals during the regular season, the fifth-highest total in Suffolk and the most in League II.

Villalta had two goals and an assist during an overtime win Oct. 10 against Sachem North, which finished second in League II.

“What we’re seeing now is the fruits of his labor,” Velez said. “Over the summer he was another kid who grew up and matured a lot and is now enjoying success and is having a breakout season.”

Robenson Jasmin, a junior midfielder who scored six goals, has been another catalyst on both sides of the field.

He also has quite the story.

After arriving on Long Island from Haiti three years ago, Velez said, Jasmin transferred to Central Islip. While serving as one of his teachers at that point, Velez said the two had a conversation about soccer. “He had know idea that I was the coach,” Velez recalled.

The 5-10 Jasmin told Velez he played soccer in Haiti during the random conversation. Velez invited him to a practice and has been impressed ever since.

“He’s evolved into quite a player,” Velez said. “He has such great vision and an ability to release the ball. He’s a quick study with a wonderful IQ for soccer.”

Velez said he saw his team start to come together as early as over the summer, when a handful of players participated in the Brookhaven summer soccer program. Some success in the regular season was expected, he added, but the level of success has been somewhat surprising.

“It’s been great so far because we wanted to implement a sense of pride and determination and these kids responded,” Velez said. “I’m so happy for these kids and these players. It’s a great story and thing to be a part of it.”