Alumni Update: Vertullo Leads Suffolk CC to Another National Title
December 05, 2014 | by Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
Maybe it’s the second time that’s really the charm! At least that’s what Frank Vertullo must be thinking these days. The Suffolk Community College men’s soccer coach led his team to the NJCAA national championship in 2010, and then repeated the feat for a second time last month! Both championships teams consisted mostly of players who grew up playing soccer in Eastern New York, like their coach.
As a youth, Vertullo played in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) for the North Babylon Bulldogs (coached by, in Vertullo’s words, “the late and amazing Gary Galletta.”) and the Massapequa TNT. Frank also competed for three years with the LIJSL Select Team and two years for Eastern New York ODP.
He played at Dowling College from 1997 to 2000 and was Conference Rookie of the Year as a freshman, an All-Conference selection three times, captain of the team for three seasons, and starting center back. He also played for the New York Freedoms of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) in 2002 and 2003.
Frank served as Dowling’s assistant coach from 2001 to 2006, helping lead the Golden Lions to four NCAA Division II Final Four appearances, including the 2006 national championship. With that success on his coaching resume, he took over the Suffolk Community College men’s program in 2007. The Sharks have won five Region XV titles and two national championships during this time, and he has been honored as Region XV Coach of the Year four times and NSCAA National Coach of the Year in 2010. Proving that nice guys finish first, Frank has also won the Sportsmanship Award in 2008, given by the New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NYMISOA).
The 34-year-old Babylon Village resident has coached LIJSL teams since 2008. He’s now the trainer of the Dix Hills Heat after previously coaching Commack Premier and Commack United.
Entering the junior college Final Four as the fourth seed with a 19-4-0 record, Suffolk played number one seed and host Herkimer Community College on November 14. Frank said the snowfall in Herkimer actually helped the Sharks as it “limited the size of the home crowd who came to watch the game.” A 12th minute goal by Romario Hulea was all the Sharks needed to avenge their loss to Herkimer in the 2013 national championship game and advance, 1-0.
The Sharks continued as underdogs in the national title game on November 16 against number two seed Richland Community College from Texas, who defeated them 5-2 back in September. With no snow in sight, Joseph Lopez and Hulea scored for the Sharks and goalkeeper Jon Zapata, named championship game MVP, made six saves in the second half to preserve Suffolk’s 2-1 lead.
“There are so many factors that are involved in winning multiple national championships,” said Vertullo, who was named Coach of the Tournament. “Consistency, recruiting, experience and creating a family atmosphere within the program are the key components. The success of the program has also helped in the recruiting process of potential student-athletes wanting to leave home to play at Suffolk, even without the convenience of campus housing. However, just bringing in talent is not always good enough.”
“My student-athletes have always given me 100% effort and have done everything I’ve asked of them,” Vertullo added. “Along with recruiting is the closeness of the student-athletes year in and year out. The family atmosphere we create makes the student-athletes want to play for one another and they hold each other accountable. The student-athletes also draw on my experiences from coaching in eight Final Fours in the past 14 years. Each year, we pull positives and negatives out of each Final Four experience and bring that into the next year’s tournament to further be prepared and to put the student-athletes and the program in the best possible position to succeed.”