Camden County College’s thrilling run to the NJCAA Division III national final ended in defeat on a steamy Saturday afternoon in upstate New York.
It took Dallas College-Richland just 47 seconds to open the scoring when Lorenzo Boseli scored a shocking opening goal against a Cougars team coming off a 110-minute scoreless draw against host Herkimer College.
Camden had multiple chances throughout the remaining 89 minutes to find an equalizer but Thunderducks goalkeeper Rodrigo Artiga put in a strong six-save performance and as time wore off in the second half Camden County kept coming up short in their attempts to deny the Richland three-peat.
“They’re very intense, they apply pressure higher up the field and I think earlier in the match they were able to do that and we weren’t able to be prepared for that,” head coach Kevin Nuss said after the match. “We reacted well and that’s all you can ask of as a coach: you get punched in the face, you come back at it. I’m happy with the way we rebounded but I think Richland is clearly a team that is prepared to be here.”
Camden County goalkeeper Manuel Ploner recovered from the early goal and finished the day with five saves, including a massive stop with 15 minutes left that would’ve effectively finished the game off for Richland.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the day for Camden County, which lost 4-0 to Richland in the national final in 2016, was the player who wasn’t on the field for the Cougars in leading goalscorer Pablo Marques. Marques, who led the team with 21 goals in 13 games this season, could only watch from behind a fence as his teammates tried to find the elusive goal.
Marques was sent off with a second yellow in the 33rd minute in the semifinal against Herkimer so he was suspended for the final.
“It’s massive,” Nuss said about not having Marques in the match. “He’s scored 21 goals, he’s had zero yellow cards all season and two teams in a semifinal that have played and earned their way here, a referee that gets assigned decides to impact how this tournament plays out is unfortunate. I think it could’ve been handled a lot better, that was his second or third foul of the game.”
Unlike the 2016 final where the outcome was more or less decided with the third goal in the 67th minute, this year’s version of the Cougars were in it right up to the final seconds in the last match of a season full of twists and challenges in a pandemic.
“I told the guys that everything we’ve been through for the last year what I really wanted was a team I could proud of that could compete for a national championship,” Nuss said. “They gave me that.”