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Nittoli nets hat trick as Holy Cross advances

He scored the game-winning goal in wins over Archbishop Molloy and St. Francis Prep in the final week of the regular season, but Tamer Mohamed was not a factor in the Knights’ quarterfinal clash with Regis Sunday at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. An injured right foot forced Holy Cross’ talented junior midfielder to instead sit stoically on the Knights bench.

Losing the services of a player of Mohamed’s ability may provide nervous moments for some coaches. But not Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary, who watched forward Paul Nittoli — one of three sophomores on the Knights roster — net a second half hat trick to lead Holy Cross to a 5-0 win over Regis in the CHSAA quarterfinals.

“He has a chance to be a pretty good player. Any trouble he had this year is because he is a little smaller,” Gilvary said of the 5-foot-8, 125-pound Nittoli. “For a sophomore to score three goals in a playoff game speaks of his talent and how good a player he’s going to be down the road.”

Holy Cross (14-2-3) advances to face Monsignor Farrell (18-0) in the semifinals Thursday at Kings Point in a rematch of the New York State Championship last year, won by the Knights, 1-0, in overtime.

“I can’t wait,” said Holy Cross senior fullback Andrew Isopo. “I’ve been waiting for this game for so long. I can’t wait to play because it’s going to go down to the wire like it always does.”

A cross by Jiva Milenovici found David Barriga at the far post and his header beat Regis keeper Chris Elms to give Holy Cross a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.

Sophomore Jeovani Paredes’ penalty kick three minutes into the second half gave the Knights a two-goal cushion and two minutes later Nittoli stole the show.

From a pair of feeds from David Curatolo, Nittoli scored in the 45th and 48th minute and capped the scoring in the 65th minute off an assist from Barriga.

“I thought if we’d pick up the pace, we’d be able to create more chances,” Gilvary said. “Soccer is a simple game, the more opportunities you have, the better your chances are to score.”

As for Mohamed, Gilvary said he’ll get x-rays early in the week and hopes he is available for the clash against Farrell. The Lions are led by the always-dangerous Adam Gage, who netted a hat trick in Farrell’s 9-0 quarterfinal win over Xavieran Sunday at Iona Prep. Playmaking midfielders Chris Cuba and Scott Vieira also make Farrell a difficult team to beat.

“It’s a big game, it’s all we’re talking about,” Milenovici said. “But we have to take the same approach, stick to the same game plan. Nothing is different.”

Molloy 4, Fordham Prep 0. Top-seeded Molloy also easily advanced to Thursday’s semifinals with a 4-0 win over No. 4 Fordham Prep at Kings Point Sunday.

Junior Rob Sardis scored a pair of goals 31 seconds apart to give the Stanners a 2-0 lead 17 minutes into the game. Sophomore Alex Silaco gave Molloy (16-5-1) a three-goal edge in the 43rd minute and senior Andres Zapata capped the scoring for Molloy, who will face Iona Prep in the semifinals Thursday at Kings Point, in the 74th minute.

“We moved the ball well today, up and down the field,” said Molloy head coach Andy Kostel. “We spread the field out well. We did well today.”

Iona Prep 3, St. Francis Prep 1. Christopher Belac gave St. Francis Prep (10-6-1) a 1-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes of the game, but Iona Prep scored three unanswered goals in the second half to advance to the semifinals Sunday at Iona College in New Rochelle.

“We controlled most of the first half, but we made three mistakes and they scored three goals,” said St. Francis Prep first-year head coach Franco Purificato. “We always seem to make a couple mistakes in the back, but we’re a team full of juniors and we’ll be back next year. We’ll be ready.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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