Historic Men’s Soccer Team to Host Mercy College Admist ECC Championship Run

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After being slated to finish sixth in the East Coast Conference (ECC) preseason coaches’ poll, it was hard to imagine what would eventually become of the 2022 Queens College men’s soccer team. Two months later, that squad would secure the second seed in the ECC playoffs which means they will be hosting their first home playoff game in program history (tomorrow against #3 ranked Mercy College), while also breaking the program record for wins in a single season after finishing 13-5. 

Coincidentally, this season was also the first the Knights played on their new home field which has been under construction for some time. Head Coach Frank Vertullo acknowledged the importance of the Knights having a ‘castle’ to call home. 

“To have no home games last year and practice in a small quads on the outfield of the baseball field was tough. Especially with 25 new players to the team last year having lost so many seniors in 2019 and the COVID-19 2020 year. It has helped us recruit and aided in building the team that we wanted here,” Coach Vertullo stated.

Highlights from the Knights 4-0 victory over CSI courtesy of the QC Knights YouTube channel.

It was on that new field that the second seed was officially secured by the Knights this past Saturday with a 4-0 victory over College of Staten Island. The second seed the team earned not only secures the Knights their first home playoff game in program history, but it also secures the highest ranking in program history. Saturday’s win over CSI saw some familiar faces be at the forefront of the victory. Sophomore midfielder Adolfo Martinez Paquet had two goals while Senior goalkeeper Dario Giovanni Cruz had three saves in the game. 

The Knights success this season has in large part to do with the two young men previously mentioned. Martinez Paquet has been responsible for seven game winners and was second in goals this season in the ECC with 11. Cruz, who has recorded six shutouts this season, leads the ECC in wins, having been in goal for all 13 of the Knights’ victories. However, the team is an overall well-oiled machine as Junior midfielder Leo Pinto had 14 points on the season and the Knights defense as a whole allowed only six goals against them in conference play, the second lowest in the ECC. 

The defense’s dominance was on full display earlier in the season when they defeated the #15 nationally ranked Southern Connecticut State University in non-conference play. With a 3-0 victory, the Knights defeated a nationally ranked team for the first time since 2018 when they defeated LIU Post (now just LIU) 2-1. This win was instrumental in boosting the confidence in the locker room.

“Considering the games we played this season, our results, our abilities, our positive attitudes, and our newly earned respect of making it to the postseason for the first time in four years, I feel confident in our team,” captain Nick Tagios said. 

The Knights would see many more victories after that, but they are getting hot at the right time with their date against Mercy slated for tomorrow. The Knights will enter on a five-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 13-1 in that span. While the ECC preseason coaches’ poll prediction for the Knights may make this season seem like an absolute shock, Cruz and those on the team were never in doubt. 

Pictured (from left to right): Luca Schad, Thomas Esperoe, Coach Frank Vertullo, Leo Pinto, Brian Garay, and Dario Giovanni Cruz

“We knew about the quality, abundance and talent this team has, so we never doubted ourselves,” Cruz stated. “I think that that was key because when the polls came out everyone was eager to begin and prove them wrong. We were all in. It was just a matter of time for us to demonstrate what Queens College can and will do.”

Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, this Knights team will go down as historic. They will have won the most games in program history, finished with the highest seed in school history, and will have hosted their first home playoff game in program history. That’s all the more reason why support from the community as they chase an ECC championship should be higher than ever. As for how the players feel going into tomorrow’s game?

“Motivated. Each and every player is pushing each other to be better on and off the field which helped us extend our season. We all want to win a championship and we understand what it takes.  This is a great group of men we have playing on this team and I am proud to be a part of it,” Tagios stated.

Coach Vertullo graciously added, “Queens is a special city and to have a team that has been successful this year and hosting a playoff game for the first time in program history, I think it is a good opportunity to connect with the community.” 

The #2 Knights face #3 Mercy College tomorrow at 7pm at home. Check the ECC website for tickets and the Knights athletics website for spectator policies.

All photos repurposed courtesy of the Queens College Athletics department.

Editor’s Note (Nov. 4th 1:39pm EST): Earlier today the ECC announced their awards for the season. Coach Vertullo was named the Coach of the Year while a few familiar faces made All-ECC teams. Cruz and Esperoe both made First Team. Martinez Paquet and Pinto made Second Team.

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