Suffolk CC men's soccer finds itself in familiar territory: going for a national championship. The 2010 NJCAA champion Sharks are headed to Herkimer CC on Thursday as one of eight remaining teams vying for the title.
Third-ranked nationally, Suffolk must win three games to capture the title. In the quarterfinals, Suffolk (16-1-2) plays Camden (17-3) on Thursday. In the other games, No. 1 Herkimer (14-1-0) plays SUNY Adirondack (14-2-0), Bunker Hill (17-3-0) meets Richland (9-4) and Montgomery (21-1-0) opposes Century (7-11-1).
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"A little nervous," sophomore center-midfielder Frankie Guzman said of his emotions. Guzman knows this is his last opportunity. He led Brentwood High School to the state Class AA title in 2011 and helped Suffolk win the Region XV title last season. But the team lost in the national semifinals.
"We're coming back stronger than ever," he said. "I'm going up there for a second year and I don't want to come back empty-handed. I'm used to winning. I told the freshmen it's not just something where we are going on vacation. Hopefully, we go up there and bring it home."
Guzman has 22 goals and a school-record 37 assists over two seasons.
"It doesn't matter if I score; an assist is creating a goal," he said. Guzman hopes to play professionally in Italy after leaving Suffolk.
Freshman Alfred Lindberg led the team with 14 goals and also had nine assists. Andre Brown had seven goals and three assists. Freshman goalkeeper Brandon Hiltz (Newfield) had 10 shutouts.
Coach Frank Vertullo, who is 113-7-9 in seven seasons, has won four regional titles. "This is a very similar makeup ," he said. "I always go after the best players, I know a lot of kids want to go Division I, at least they know they have a chance to win a national championship [at Suffolk]. They have a chance to basically win every game as our record over the last seven years has shown. They have something to play for."