The Sussex County Community College men’s soccer team continues to excel year after year, racking up regional championships on a regular basis. The Skylanders were victorious in gaining the regional champ title once again during this past season thanks to an undefeated (with some ties) campaign that also saw them make it to the National Championships. This year, though, men’s soccer had to share some of that SCCC glory with the women’s soccer team who also qualified for the Nationals for the first time.
The women had a record-setting year, and they too qualified for the Nationals by winning their last seven games of the year in a row, finishing 9-2. They also chalked up their third consecutive regional title along the way. They Lady Skylanders then made school history by beating #13 ranked Howard Community College 4-2 in the NJCAA DII East District final to earn an automatic bid to the NJCAA National Tournament, which was held in Wichita, KS.
The women won their first round game in the Nationals on Nov. 15, but their dream season unfortunately came to an end the next night. While they didn’t quite reach their ultimate goal, the women still finished with an awesome record of 10-3 and much to be proud of.
The women had several players named to the NJCAA All Region XIX Team including Carina Gasparini (who was also named Player of the Year and is the Skylanders’ team captain), Asha McClurg, Sophie Taylor, Blaise Vallorisi, and Paula Herold. Like the men’s team, women’s soccer is also laden with International players. Gasparini, for starters, hails from Austria. Along with many Sussex County area players, the team also features four players from Germany and two from Scotland. Australia and Portugal are also represented on the roster.
After a scoreless first half against Waubonsee Community College in the first round of the Nationals, the Lady Skylanders exploded for three second half goals by three different players - Herold, Valloris, and Taylor, with Taylor adding a pair of assists and another from Gasparini. Goalie Sofia Anica made nine saves to secure the shutout.
Sussex held tight for the first half one night later, only trailing Phoenix College 1-0. But in the second half Phoenix erupted for three more goals for a 4-0 win.
In the district clinching game against Howard, Sussex had a slow start, falling behind 1-0 in the 6th minute. Sussex equalized less than 4 minutes later, however, with a goal from Taylor from inside the penalty area. Sussex would then take the lead in the 22nd minute after Gasparini finished calmly after being sent through on goal by Taylor. Howard would equalize again 10 minutes after the halftime break but Sussex fought back with Gasparini and Taylor combining again with the Austrian setting up Taylor for the finish just outside the 6-yard box to take the lead with 20 minutes remaining. Five minutes later Sussex put the game to bed when Vallorosi tucked home a rebound from a Taylor shot to give Sussex the 4-2 lead. Sussex finished the game with 28 shots, 15 on target, compared to Howard’s 13 shots, 6 on target in a thoroughly deserved District Final win, the first in the program’s history.
The men advance
The men, meanwhile, went 9-0-3 heading into the Nationals while claiming their regional championship. Dreams for a national championship were dashed, however, when the Skylanders ultimately lost on penalty kicks to Herkimer in the first round.
During the season the Skylanders men’s team relied on some international players, like their female counterparts. They have five players from the United Kingdom and two from Portugal among their ranks.
The men’s team advanced to the NJCAA DIII Men’s Soccer National Tournament with an impressive 3-0 win over Ocean County College in the NJCAA Region XIX Final. Ethan Streeter opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a powerful header off of a set piece to give the Skylanders the lead. Skylar Hanisch then doubled the lead 4 minutes later after a flowing move from Sussex in which the team passed its way through the Ocean defense. Keiran Ouellette then put the game on ice in the 86th minute with a chip over the out-rushing goalkeeper after being sent through on goal by Joao Campos, who finished the game with 3 assists.
Head Coach Frank Vernacchio praised his team after a challenge of a game. “It was a really tough game, but the boys showed their talent and hard work today. Ocean is always a tough competitor and will fight to the end, but I’m really happy with how we battled today and took our chances when we had them. Overall, we have grown so much over this season and to still to have been unbeaten by this point is fantastic.”
“Overall, we have grown so much over this season and to still to have been unbeaten by this point is fantastic.” Head Coach Frank Vernacchio