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Close-knit Friends expected to repeat

Friends Academy senior Colin Heffron (7) reacts after

Friends Academy senior Colin Heffron (7) reacts after scoring a goal in the first half. (Nov. 21, 2010) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Matt Slotnick and Colin Heffron sat next to each other in the Middletown High School gym two weeks ago chatting and smiling as they waited to be presented the trophy. The senior duo was a huge part of Friends Academy winning the state Class C boys soccer championship for the second consecutive season.

Back in junior high, they never thought this would happen. They played on rival club teams and weren't too fond of each other. Senior Chris Campbell, a defender who transferred to Friends Academy as a sophomore and also was a key cog in the Quakers' success, played with Slotnick on the same club team.

"We didn't really like him very much," Slotnick said of Heffron. "Once we became friends we became great friends. It's soccer that brought us together. We always knew it could be a good connection."

Slotnick scored 28 goals and Heffron had nine goals and nine assists as the Quakers finished their season with a record of 15-1-2.

"Not only have we been playing together for four years," Heffron said, "we play on an academy team together outside of school. We're the best friends and it shows on the field. There was a little competitive tenacity at first. Slowly, it translated into a really good relationship."

Throw in Campbell and the trio came together to anchor a team that defeated Marathon, 3-0, in the state championship game, and outscored four postseason opponents 16-2.

"They have a dynamic," Friends Academy coach Marshall Lindner said. "Slotnick on the forward line, Colin in the middle and Campbell in the back orchestrate things. Honestly, I put the games in their hands. I don't overcoach the situation. These guys know what has to be done. They made other players better."

The attention they received opened it up for others and several different players stepped up in the postseason. Jon Nierenberg and Mike Isernio each scored two goals, Kyle Dineen, Drew Chartash, Harrison Seideman, David Sher, and A.J. Muran each added a goal in the playoffs.

Goalkeeper Eli Rousso, a backup last season, split time in goal often this year, but played all four games in the postseason and made some key saves early in a 3-0 win over Port Jefferson in the Long Island Class C championship.

The Quakers didn't expect to win last season, but they captured their first Long Island championship and went on to win the state championship. This year's goal was to repeat.

"It was a dream last year, but not a goal," Heffron said. "Everyone knew this year our goal was to get here and to win again. It would have been a disappointment if we didn't do it."

Said Muran: "Last year we were the underdogs and didn't know what to expect. This year we knew what we were up against and played really well."

Friends Academy was the lone Class C team in Nassau and played in a conference with Class B teams and finished first.

"Nobody was thinking about a state championship when I first started here," Campbell said. "Since the beginning of the season we were looking to this game. To finally get here and win it is great. It's a nice way to end the season."

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