Players on the Briarcliffe men's soccer team left storm-ravaged Long Island with heavy, but resilient hearts of champions as they traveled last weekend to Asheville, N.C., for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship. Last Sunday, Briarcliffe beat West Virginia Tech, 2-1, for the title.
The championship run occurred in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Sophomore defender Christopher DiMaria of Massapequa could not make the trip.
"My house was ruined, flooded,'' DiMaria said. His aunt was injured when a tree fell on her house in Howard Beach. He said she was treated for cuts and bruises but is otherwise OK.
"I really wanted to go but I couldn't leave my family at a time like that,'' he said. "Knowing that they got the job done was such a great feeling. I was still able to smile, get through my day knowing I have my team out there in North Carolina playing for a national championship and ultimately winning. Even though I wasn't there, I felt like I was because we are one.''
Briarcliffe, which finished 13-1, won the title for second time since 2008. "When I see that ring,'' senior defender Mike Knowles of North Babylon said, "I'm definitely going to think about everything we went through just getting there and the people we left behind to go play soccer.'' Knowles' car was damaged by fallen trees at his house.
Coach Rafael Morais added, "The kids wanted to play extra hard for their families. Before every game our cheer was 'Long Island strong.' They were playing for Long Island. I think we'll always remember the path that took us there.''
THE 2012 USCAA CHAMPIONSOscar Corado, So. F, Elmont
Had four goals and an assist in 14 games.
Matheus Nogaro, Sr. F, Seaford
Appeared in 11 games, scoring three goals on 15 shots.
Andrea Guardi, So. F, Eastport
Started two games and scored one goal.
Jhon Sanchez, So. M-D, HicksvilleStrong defender who had one goal in seven games.
Christopher DiMaria, So. M-D, Massapequa
Played in six games, started two and scored a goal.
Giancarlo Luna, Jr. M-D, Brentwood
Came back from a knee injury to score the first goal against New Hampshire Technical Institute in a national quarterfinal. Also tallied a goal in title game. Led the team in scoring with six goals and five assists.
Michael Richardson, Jr. F, St. George, Grenada Had two goals in 10 starts.
Troy Antonacci, Jr. M/D, MLK H.S., Queens: Started 10 games and scored one goal.
Gustavo CiFuentes, So. G, Columbia
Allowed only three goals in six starts. MVP of national tournament. Goals against average of 0.48.
Daniel Benitez, Fr. F, Eastport
First-year player saw action in six games and took three shots.
Jose Aguilar, Fr. M, Hicksville
Reliable starter who appeared in 13 games, scoring two goals and an assist.
Carlos Rafael Gomez, Fr. F, Hicksville
A goal and assist in 10 games, seven as a starter.
Orlando Hernandez, Fr. D/F, Roosevelt
Defender of the future saw action in four games.
Andres Zuluaga, Jr. D/F, Hicksville
Scored three goals in only six starts.
Andres Alberto-Reyes. Fr. D/M, Glenn
Promising freshman saw action in three games, had two shots on goal.
Brandon Geraghty, Fr. G, Floyd
Started two games, had eight saves and registered two shutouts.
Mike Knowles, Sr. D, North Babylon
Started all 14 games, scoring two goals and three assists.
Hector Guerrero, Fr. G, Mexico City
Scored the winning goal in double overtime to defeat Maine in the national semifinal. Also started five games in goal and had three shutouts.
Ricky Letteen, Jr. D, Brooklyn
Solid defender who made 11 starts.
Janithan Las-Lamin, Fr. F, London, UK
Joined in midseason, played two games.
Tiago Barbosa, Fr. F, Hicksville
Walk-on, played two games, expected to play significant role in the future.
Edison Guayllasaca, So. M, Flushing
Key assist in the championship game. Had a goal and an assist in the regular season.
Leandro Placido, Jr. M, Brazil
The 5-10, 170-pound player handled the tough defensive assignment of marking West Virginia striker Joe Jackson. Placido limited him to three harmless shots on goal.
Nico Serolini, Jr. M, Uruguay
Team captain who sustained knee injury and was unable to play this season.
Head coach: Rafael Morais
Fifth season at Briarcliffe.
Nick Gordon, Freddy Guardi
Rony Goncalves, Steven Diaz