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Massapequa Arsenal wins 19-and-under national championship

Massapequa Arsenal's U-19 championship team,Back row, left to

Massapequa Arsenal's U-19 championship team,Back row, left to right: Coach/administrator Joe Votinelli, Brian Nichtern, Jonny Nierenberg, Nicholas Cestaro, James Macchia, Brendan Gallivan, Cory Santangelo, Coach Robert Christensen, Frank Micieli, Joseph Escamilla, James Harris, Gerard Farrell, Matthew Scorce, Coach Tobias Bischof. Front row, left to right: Kieran Hall, Nicholas Christensen, John Romano, Dan Vitiello, Justin Carfora, Chris McGrath, Michael Farese. Not pictured: Kevin Mazol, Kevin McGrath. Credit: Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

Ten years ago, Nick Cestaro was a 9-year-old member of a new club soccer team, Massapequa Arsenal.

Teammates have come and gone, but Cestaro, Matt Scorce, Daniel Vitiello, Jamie Macchia, Mike Votinelli and coach Joe Votinelli have been at the core of Massapequa Arsenal ever since.

And now they are national champions.

Massapequa Arsenal, a member of the Long Island Junior Soccer League, beat St. Louis' Scott Gallagher, 3-1, on July 25 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to win the McGuire Cup, the under-19 boys soccer national championship. U-19 is the oldest age group.

Brendan Gallivan, Mike Farese and Cestaro scored in the national championship game.

"It's kind of like a fairy-tale ending," Cestaro said. "Ten years ago we would have never thought that we would be calling ourselves national champions."

Massapequa faced Scott Gallagher, the three-time national champions, in the first game of the nationals and lost, 1-0. But Massapequa made it to the final with a 2-1 win over Arizona's Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks Burke and a 2-0 shutout against GSA 96 Premier of Georgia to finish in second place in the round robin, behind Scott Gallagher.

"It's like the old cliché," said Gallivan, who has played for Massapequa Arsenal since he was 12 years old. "There's no better way to go out -- on top with a national championship."

Gallivan, who appeared in 10 games for Marist as a freshman last fall, said that 15 of the 17 Massapequa Arsenal members are playing soccer in college. Cestaro said reuniting after their freshman year felt "normal," that he welcomed the familiarity of playing with friends he has known for years.

"These are kids I've played with forever," said Cestaro, a St. Anthony's graduate who appeared in 16 games as a freshman at Holy Cross. "I can tell you how they're going to play, what they ate in the morning before a game. I just know them a little more personally than I do my college teammates."

They all knew this was their last chance to play club soccer together.

"When we talked about forming the U-19 team for one last run, all we talked about was we didn't want this game to be our last game," Cestaro said. "The state semis against Manhattan, one of our rivals, we didn't want that to be our last game. We didn't want the state championship to be our last game. Every time we would get behind, we just would all say we don't want this whole thing to end."

Gallivan was in a similar situation as a senior at Massapequa High School, when he, Vitiello, Votinelli and fellow Massapequa Arsenal teammates Chris McGrath, Kevin Mazol and Brian Nichtern won the Class AA state championship. Though the club team is also based in Massapequa, it features kids from all over Long Island.

"That's what was really cool about it," Gallivan said. "It was Massapequa kids and a few other kids from out of town. We brought it back to Long Island. It was very cool, a representation of Long Island."

And all of New York, which had not produced a McGuire Cup winner since Ukrainian of New York in 1959.

Having already been honored before last Sunday's Cosmos game, Massapequa Arsenal will celebrate its championship with the community Wednesday at 8 p.m. at John Burns Park in Massapequa Park.


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