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Boys Soccer: Greenport makes most of playoff opportunity, defeating Section 2 team in state tournament

To find the turning point in the season, Greenport boys soccer coach Greg Dlhopolsky reflected back on a strange game against Port Jefferson.

A pair of red cards were issued to a Greenport player and coach and the situation escalated to where the referees walked off the field and declared the Porters as the losers via forfeit. An appeal to officials at Section XI, the governing body for Suffolk County sports, went in the Porters’ favor and the game was resumed for the final 12 minutes, the coach said.

It was an “ugly” game, Dlhopolsky said, and one in which the Porters didn’t have the sense of urgency they needed; Port Jefferson hung on to win, 4-3.

“We had a discussion in the locker room afterward and I was like, ‘Listen, we can petition to get in [the playoffs], but it’s a privilege to get in, not a right,” Dlhopolsky said. “If you want to play in the playoffs, you need to earn it.’ “

After winning just one of their first 13 games, the Porters closed out the regular season with three straight wins. By virtue of a pair of wins against Smithtown Christian — the only other Class D school in the county — the Porters successfully petitioned to earn a spot in the state tournament. With no Nassau County Class D school to face, the Porters waited two weeks from the end of the regular season to meet Loudonville Christian of Section 2 in a sub-Southeast Regional game Wednesday at Guilderland High School near Albany.

For the first time all year, the Porters rallied from a deficit to earn a win as they defeated Loudonville, 4-3. The Porters rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 down. The win sends the Porters to a regional game Saturday against Chapel Field Christian of Section 9 at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. That game is at 1 p.m.

Improbably enough, a team that had been 1-12 at one point this season now stands one win away from advancing to the state final four.

“It was nice to see that grit, that we got behind and the guys still pulled through and were able to play hard and win against a quality team,” Dlhopolsky said. “Loudonville, I don’t take anything away from them. They were a good team. They had some good players. It was a gritty win.”

As thrilling as Wednesday’s win was for Greenport, who have now won four straight, Dlhopolsky said the players are hungry for more.

“They know as much as this was a big win, it’s not over yet and they want to try to win again,” Dlhopolsky said.

The Porters (5-12) were trailing 3-2 in the second half and Dlhopolsky was imploring his players to shoot the ball. Senior Nery Cano, who has a strong left foot, took the advice and launched a ball from nearly 40 yards out that hit the crossbar and bounced in for an equalizer.

About five minutes later, striker Milton Veliz gave the Porters the lead.

“He kind of took a touch to the outside and he just turned with his left foot and put one in the bottom right of the goal,” Dlhopolsky said.

The Porters maintained the 4-3 advantage over the final 15 minutes.

Four different players scored goals for Greenport. Junior Ricky Campos initially put the Porters up 1-0 before Loudonville answered with a pair of goals. It appeared the Porters would be down 2-1 at halftime until a clutch, late play. Luis Masin, a sophomore, jumped to head a ball in the box just as Loudonville’s goalkeeper was closing in. The two collided and Masin got just enough on the ball to knock into the back of the net with 12 seconds left in the half.

“That really helped us out a lot,” Dlhopolsky said.

At halftime, the team talked about how it was going to be a battle in the second half. And within five minutes, the Porters were staring at a 3-2 deficit when Loudonville retook the lead.

A jubilant group of Porters boarded the bus back home Wednesday for a long ride back to the North Fork. After stopping for dinner, the fatigue from a physical and emotional game set in for the final stretch home.

The Porters got a chance to get some rest before the focus shifts to Saturday for what will be the program’s biggest game since 2018 when they also advanced as far as the regionals.