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Lopez goal helps Suffolk CC advance in junior college soccer playoffs

Joseph Lopez plays the ball while teammates Keith

Joseph Lopez plays the ball while teammates Keith Marro and Adam Ek look for a pass during Suffolk Community College's quarterfinal match against Camden on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. Credit: Herkimer College

HERKIMER, N.Y. - Joseph Lopez knew just how to settle down the Suffolk County Community College men's soccer team.

No. 5 Camden was not dominating the NJCAA Division III quarterfinal, but it led the bigger, quicker Sharks thanks to a 25th-minute goal by Zachary Gary.

It took 18 more minutes, but Lopez did what he has done all year for the No. 4 Sharks. The sophomore striker deked a defender at the top of the box and scored his 32nd goal of the season to tie the game at 1 in the 43rd minute.

The No. 4 Sharks (19-4) would control the rest of the match, and advance to today's semifinal against tournament host and top-seed Herkimer with a 4-1 win.

"We knew if we were just patient and kept our shape the goals would come because we're very dangerous," Suffolk CC coach Frank Vertullo said. "We knew it would come."

Lopez's running mate, Romario Hulea, put Suffolk ahead at the break with a goal a minute later. Hulea, who tacked on a goal and assist in the second half, has scored 27 times.

"To have the lead with five minutes left in the half and give up two goals like that, I'm sure their coach is telling them, 'Watch the two forwards,' " Vertullo said. "They have 60 goals between them, and each of them scored so it's deflating."

With momentum on their side, the Sharks spoke at halftime about doling out a dagger early in the second period.

"We knew the next goal was, obviously, crucial," Vertullo said. "I said, 'If we get it, I think it'll wrap up the game because it's very deflating.' "

Lopez and Hulea wasted little time.

Lopez raced downfield with the ball about four minutes after the break, but his defender forced him to redirect toward the baseline left of the net. Hulea streaked into the box to receive a chipped pass from Lopez, and fired a shot past Camden's Robert Munday.

Hulea assisted Anfernee Lopez's goal in the 58th minute, and from there Camden would get just one shot toward the net.

Suffolk fell to Herkimer (17-0-1), 1-0, in last year's final. Their rematch is set for 4 p.m. Friday.

"The message is, especially for the sophomores, remember that feeling," Vertullo said. "That left a bad taste in our mouth."

New York Sports