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Uniondale wins first boys soccer championship on penalty kicks

Uniondale's Endi Fernandez stops Syosset's last penalty kick,

Uniondale's Endi Fernandez stops Syosset's last penalty kick, winning the Nassau Class AA soccer championship for the Knights. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Uniondale reserve goalkeeper Endi Fernandez is getting pretty good at this penalty kick thing.

Fernandez, who helped the Knights advance in the Nassau Class AA boys soccer semifinals against Farmingdale in penalty kicks on Friday, did it again Wednesday night.

The sophomore sat on the bench for 110 minutes during a 1-1 tie against top-seeded Syosset in the Nassau AA championship game and made three key saves in the shootout as No. 2 Uniondale advanced, 3-2, on penalty kicks.

Though both Syosset (12-1-4) and Uniondale (9-1-3) are co-champs, Uniondale meets the winner of Thursday’s Suffolk AA final — between Half Hollow Hills West and Smithtown West — at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Long Island championship at Mitchel Athletic Complex.

“I just kept telling myself to stay calm and keep composed,” said Fernandez, who made two stops on Friday. “I knew at the end, things would come out good.”

Darwin Velasquez, Mursan Padilla and Miguel Guerra all scored on penalty kicks for the victorious Knights.

Uniondale’s Carlos Ayala just missed sending the pro-Uniondale crowd home happy with a shot 2:01 into the first overtime that was somehow stopped by Syosset’s Dylan Gefter (15 saves). He also stoned Ayala with nine minutes left and 5:31 to go in the second overtime.

Meanwhile, Shunta Iio just missed a chance for the winner two minutes into the second overtime for Syosset. Those were both teams’ best chances in the two, 15-minute, golden-goal overtime periods.

“I feel proud of the team and the coach,” said Ayala, through teammate and starting goalkeeper Jose Romero (13 saves). “He always tells us to work hard and we did.”

Especially on the game’s first goal, which was a thing of beauty. Justin Wright back-heeled a pass to Ayala, who buried a perfect shot into the upper-right corner with 19:48 left in the first half as Uniondale took a 1-0 lead.

The speedy Ayala could have given the Knights a two-goal cushion with less than seven minutes left in the half, but missed an open net. The Knights started utilizing their speed and exposed the Syosset back and recorded 12 first-half shots.

But Syosset’s Zyde Nawabi finally solved the riddle of Romero and scored the tying goal in the 77th minute, which forced the overtimes and later penalty kicks. Uniondale coach Cohen Nelson knew exactly who his goalkeeper would be in the shootout: Fernandez.

“In practice he shows that resolve,” Nelson said, “and he’s very, very persistent.”

Nelson held back tears when reflecting on Uniondale’s first Nassau boys soccer crown.

“It’s emotional,” the 13th-year Knights coach said. “It really is. It really is.”

But one thing is for certain: If Uniondale has to go to penalty kicks in an upcoming game, Fernandez is ready.

“I’ll save my team,” Fernandez said. “Again.”

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