HERKIMER, N.Y. — Once again, the Herkimer County Community College Generals are national champions.
The top-ranked Generals defeated Suffolk County Community College 1-0 at Wehrum Stadium Sunday afternoon to claim their third title in a row, all on their home field.
“There is a lot of pressure to keep it going,” said sophomore midfielder Peter McAvoy, the national tournament’s most valuable player and scorer of the only goal in the title match. “You don’t think about being MVP, you don’t think about winning a national championship, but it’s always in the back of your head. Hopefully next year the boys can do it again.”
The Generals (17-1-0) are the third team to win three consecutive Division III championships; they were also the first the 1994-96 Generals and 2002-04 Richland College Thunderducks had the previous threepeats. Herkimer has won 10 national championships since the NJCAA split soccer from one division to two in 1994 and has been a finalist 15 times.
McAvoy scored in the 26th minute Sunday with a redirection off James Wilson’s direct kick. Jermaine Windster had been dragged down from behind between the penalty area and the right sideline and the Generals were awarded the free kick from there. Wilson served the ball to the front of the net where McAvoy deflected the ball over Suffolk goalkeeper Branden Hiltz to the far side. A defender at the back post booted the ball back out but a lineman positioned along the end line signaled that the ball had crossed the threshold of the goal.
Two similar shots in the Generals’ 2-1 semifinal win over Richland College drew split calls Friday.
“The linesman was in great position and he said it was definitely in,” Herkimer coach Pepe Aragon said.
After playing from behind against SUNY-Adirondack and Richland in the first two rounds of the national tournament, the Generals finally had a chance to play with they lead. They were, however, unable to add to that lead.
“We knew Suffolk wasn’t going to go away,” Aragon said. “We talked about that at halftime. They had two come-from behind wins in the first two rounds and they weren’t going to give up today.”
Looking for a second goal to pad its lead, Herkimer almost struck quickly at the start of the second half. Brian Coyt broke free and made a run in the first two minutes but had his attack broken up by the defense.
Suffolk’s Sharks had their best opportunity to tie the score with seven minutes remaining in the match but were unable to get the ball by goalkeeper Triston Henry. Henry sprawled out to his left and deflected Josh Zapata’s long crossing shot wide of the right post. The ball went over the end line, giving Suffolk a corner kick and Henry was called on to make a similar move for a save off Marvin Chinchilla’s header.
Page 2 of 2 - “We said today that Triston would have to come up big for us at least two or three times,” Aragon said, “and he did. He made two unbelievable saves that allowed us to hold on.”
Henry, a second-year starter, accepted the challenge.
“The first one was a tough save because it went through a couple guys,” Henry said. “In that situation, (if you make) the smallest of mistakes it’s in the back of the net.”
Playing at a high level that includes two junior college national championship matches has helped Henry prepare for high-pressure situations.
“I’ve learned to calm my nerves,” he said, “but the nerves are still there. That’s for sure.”
McAvoy also scored the deciding goal in Friday’s match with a header off Wilson’s corner kick after McIntyre Felton scored the tying goal with an assist from Jermaine Windster. McAvoy scored twice Thursday against Adirondack with one goal coming off a free kick by Wilson.
“We are very strong on set pieces,” Aragon said. “That comes from James Wilson and his great deliveries. He pinpoints the ball and finds Peter McAvoy. “There is a great chemistry between the two of them.”
Henry, Jimmy Calderon and Mitchel White represented Herkimer on the tournament’s all-star team. Frankie Guzman, Alfred Lindberg and Zapata were chosen from Suffolk.