Richard Morel has scored a team-high 14 goals for Whitman this season, but few were as impressive and none was bigger than his strike Thursday night.
Morel’s free-kick goal was the difference in No. 6 Whitman’s 2-1 win over No. 4 Newfield in the Suffolk Class AA boys soccer final at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. Whitman will face Port Washington at the same site on Sunday for the Long Island championship.
“This is everything you could ask for in life, winning a championship with a team that’s like family,” said Morel, who blasted a free kick into the back of the net with about seven minutes left in the first half for what proved to be the winning goal.
“I looked at the net and I saw the keeper was off his line,” Morel said of his approach leading up to the goal. “I let it rip and the ball went into the back of the net. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling.”
“He can strike a ball and we’re extremely happy with his development,” Whitman coach John DiGiacomo said of the sophomore. “He’s been great all year for us and we look forward to another couple of years.”
The goal followed a fast start for both teams. Whitman’s Roberto Alfaro opened the scoring in the ninth minute and Newfield answered two minutes later with a score from Olvin Yanes.
“I was in position, I was ready to hit it and the ball found me,” Alfaro said of his goal, which was assisted by Jason Quintanilla Cordova.
The win continues an impressive run for Whitman (17-3), which upset a pair of powerhouses en route to the final. The Wildcats edged No. 3 Brentwood, 2-1, in the quarterfinals before knocking out No. 2 Commack by the same score.
Newfield (17-3) threatened in the second half, especially in the 52nd minute, when Whitman keeper Sean Rankel (13 saves) was forced to tip a free kick just over the crossbar. From there, the Wolverines continued to push forward, but a strong defensive effort from Rankel and the Whitman back line thwarted each attempt.
“They played extremely hard against a well-coached and strong Newfield team,” DiGiacomo said. “We’re pretty stout defensively and that’s a strong part of our game. If we can close down attackers and not allow easy shots, we’re going to have some success.”