Nicholas Bernhard, Brian Nichtern power Massapequa to AA title
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Dan Vitiello had the best seat in the house as he watched his Massapequa boys soccer team put in one goal after another in the Long Island Class AA boys soccer championship Sunday.
There's no better feeling than that for the senior goalkeeper, as his Chiefs scored three first-half goals en route to their 5-1 win over Smithtown West at the Mitchel Athletic Complex.
"This is the best team I've ever been on. We don't want this to end," said Vitiello, who made four saves. "Today was easy, not as much pressure on me. I didn't have to do a lot. Our forwards made great runs, our midfielders played the ball in well and our defense held its own."
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Vitiello and the Chiefs (14-1-2) can only hope it remains this easy when they move on to the state semifinals to face Monroe-Woodbury at 11:15 a.m. Saturday in Middletown.
Nicholas Bernhard, who finished with two goals, scored in the second minute of the first half to give the Chiefs an early 1-0 lead.
Brandon Merklin scored Massapequa's second goal in the 10th minute. "We came out hungry," said Brian Nichtern, who scored the first of his two goals in the 15th minute to give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead, which they took into halftime. "Since the beginning of the season, we've always talked about wanting it more. We wanted it more today. Once we see one goal, we want another."
Nichtern hit again in the 65th minute and Bernhard scored again in the 79th. "Everybody on our team knows where to play the ball," Bernhard said. "Once we score first, we want to keep pounding it in, keep scoring. We get each other pumped. This is a great run we're on that we want to keep going all the way to the state championship. Hopefully, we don't let up."
Smithtown West, which finished 19-1-1, had trouble playing against the wind in the first half, yet Bulls coach Tom Lips didn't make any excuses. "They capitalized with the wind at their back and we never recovered," Lips said. "They looked fresh and we didn't."
Senior midfielder/defender Garrett Sweeney scored in the 58th minute, off an assist from senior midfielder/defender Chris Hettler, to give the Bulls their lone goal.
"Every player that stepped on the field gave 100 percent effort," Massapequa coach Keith Stanley said. "Any team that does that is tough to beat."