And in the end, he was one who led the Terriers to an unlikely CHSAA double, beating rival Holy Cross to win the schools first city title in 20 years and then upset Chaminade en route to its first-ever state crown.
For that, Purificato is the TimesLedger CHSAA Coach of the Year.
Purificato made the Terriers believe they were the underdogs in every match they played this year. Of course, they were the underdogs in a season that he admitted before a 2-0 opening-day loss to Holy Cross as being a rebuilding season.
But Purificato believed in a team that heavily depended on a group of talented sophomores.
The Terriers entered the playoffs as a sub-.500 team expecting to fall in the first round but found themselves in the quarterfinals against the same Regis team that ousted it in the semifinals a year earlier.
And after sophomore George Garcia missed a penalty kick in the second half, Purificato sent him back to the spot to take the all-important first penalty in a shootout after 100 scoreless minutes.
After another penalty kick shootout win against Molloy the Terriers were back at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy to face archrival Holy Cross, which put Prep under constant pressure in the first 30 minutes of the game.
With the score deadlocked at the half, the Terriers looked to Purificato to provide some more words of wisdom.
In the first half they destroyed us, and I told the kids at halftime, they threw everything at us and look at the scoreboard, 0-0, he said. And thats when they started to believe.
As had been the case throughout the year, the Terriers bought into Purificatos motivational speech. They slowly took over the game and George Garcia, yes, the same George Garcia, scored the winning penalty kick.
The stunning win over Holy Cross was especially sweet for Purificato because he has been a part of the soccer program at the Fresh Meadows school for 13 years as a former player, assistant coach and junior varsity coach.
I cant even describe the feeling, said Purificato, who lost to Holy Cross countless times and was on the field in 1993 when the Terriers lost to Molloy in the city final. Its a history of finishing second or third every year. We beat Regis who beat us last year in the semis, we beat Molloy who we havent beaten in five years and this is our archrival. It doesnt get any better.
©2004 Community News Group
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