SUFFOLK COUNTY CC 1, RICHLAND COLLEGE 0
Held without a shot for more than 70 minutes Friday, Suffolk County Community College’s top-seeded Clippers dodged each attack by Richland College until they could punch in a goal and earn a spot in the NJCAA’s Division III championship match.
Rafaele Rajo scored in the 86th minute of play at Wehrum Stadium and gave the Thunderducks a 1-0 win over Richland’s Thunderducks in the first of two semifinals. Homestanding Herkimer Community College and Triton College of Illinois took the field for the final match of the days and were still playing when The Times went to press.
Rajo’s goal came on a cross from Ron Pressly with 4:32 left to play in regulation. Pressly’s pass came to the front of the net and Rajo buried the ball in the left side of the net.
The Thunderducks had missed several quality chances earlier in the second half and would not go without in the waning moments of the match. Clipper Raul Florez stopped a shot on the goal line after keeper Jesse Nulty had been drawn out from the goal in the final two minutes. The clock stopped for a free kick with 2.9 seconds showing on the clock and Richland standout Jaime Lovegrove sent the ball over the crossbar from 40 yards out as time expired.
Earlier in the second half the Thunderducks missed their best chances to score. Gaston Martinez, a late substitution into the Texas squad’s lineup, had two close calls in the final 10 minutes of play. Martinez beat his defender one-and-one and tipped the ball over Nulty on a rush in the 82nd minute. With nothing between him and the goal, Martinez put his foot to the ball and shot it off the pipes while running into the goal himself. Two minutes later, Nulty dropped down low for a save on a header by Martinez off a corner kick.
Florez was the second Clipper to cover for the aggressive Nulty in the second half. Athanasio Vlahos-Kitas contributed a diving header to clear a shot by Lovegrove across the end line. The Thunderducks were awarded a corner kick and Nulty made a save on a soft shot.
Nulty’s most spectacular save came in the 64th minute when he leaped to punch an acrobatic shot from Herberth Gomez over the crossbar. The ensuing corner kick did not generate a shot.
Although the scoreboard showed Suffolk with only three shots at the end of the contest, the official statistics showed an 8-6 advantage for Richland. Nulty made seven saves in undefeated Suffolk’s second shutout in as many days and eighth in a row overall. Carl Hansson was credited with three saves for the Thunderducks.
Suffolk defeated Herkimer in double overtime at Tompkins-Cortland Community College’s Northeast Cup tournament in August. Herkimer, the No. 2 seed behind the Clippers, had not lost since, pending Friday’s outcome.
Page 2 of 2 - In consolation play Friday afternoon, Bunker Hill Community College defeated County College of Morris 4-1 and Brookdale Community College won a shootout against Howard Community after playing to a 2-2 tie in regulation.