By Michael Lewis
OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — It’s not easy pulling off an upset, regardless where you play.
Add the fact you’re on the road and you have to overcome a one-goal deficit, the degree of difficulty becomes, well, that much more difficult.
The Queens College men pulled off one of the program’s biggest wins Wednesday afternoon, registering a 2-1 victory over 15th-ranked LIU Post at President’s Stadium on the campus of New York Institute of Technology.
The Division II game was moved to the turf field of NYIT due to unplayable conditions at nearby Post, which is down the road in Brookville off Northern Boulevard on the North Shore of Long Island.
“That’s a big win. That’s a big win for the program,” Queens head coach Frank Vertullo said. “What we’re trying to do here, put this program on the map, that was a nice first step.
“I don’t think we ever beat a ranked team.”
Romario Hulea struck twice within a 48-second span in the opening half to turn the East Coast Conference encounter on its head.
The Pioneers (5-2, 2-1) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute as striker Lukas Ostermann converted a penalty kick past goalkeeper Michael Bolvin for his league-best ninth goal this season.
Then Cristian Villalta and Hulea went into action. Villalta dribbled the defense before laying the ball off to Hulea, who lofted the ball over goalkeeper Hessner Hansen for a 1-1 deadlock in the 19th minute.
If you blinked, you might have missed the game-winner in the 20th minute as an overlapping left back Paul Hayes slipped Hulea a perfect pass from the left side before the Knights forward fired it into the lower left corner past.
“It shows character,” Vertullo said. “Against some teams, you go down a goal and you put your head down. We came back and scored two goals in the next five minutes and really had a great first half. It shows character.”
For at least one player, the upset had some more emotional significance — Hayes, a former standout at Mattituck High School who transferred from Post to Queens last year.
“Personally, for me, it was a little more emotional because I have friends on that team,” he said. “The way we came inot the game, everyone didn’t respect them. I think most teams that play them have this respect for Post. ‘They’re a good side. Let them have the ball.’ But we went after it today. I think that was the difference between us and other teams. We go after it. Unfortunately, against lesser teams, we sit back and relax.”
With the game ending at around 5 p.m., the Knights faced a potential long ride home due to rush-hour traffic.
“I hope it takes three hours,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a nice feeling. We’re obviously going to enjoy this win for about 10 minutes and then put our [focus] on Mercy.”
Queens hosts Mercy College, a 2017 NCAA D2 tournament side, Saturday at 4 p.m.
“Unfortunately, we’ve gotten some big wins over the last year and a half and kind of lost focus in following games,” Vertullo said. “Saturday is going to be another big test for us. They’re top five in the region. They were nationally ranked last week. We want to make the conference tournament. Wins like this are important.”