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VESTAL, N.Y. — Candice Clark takes a certain pride in donning the orange of New York City in the Empire State Games. The college sophomore soccer player from Belle Harbor has been playing in the Games — the largest amateur sporting event in the country — since she was in eighth grade.

“I really like representing the city,” said Clark, who attends Connecticut College. “People sometimes underestimate how good New York City is.”

For 28 years, when it came to the women’s open soccer division, it was hard to blame the skeptics. The NYC team went almost three decades without a medal until St. John’s women’s soccer coach Ian Stone took the program’s helm two summers ago. Since then, the team has won bronze, silver and, after a 2-0 win against Long Island on Sunday morning at SUNY Binghamton, now gold.

“It’s awesome,” said goalkeeper Jessica Clinton, who is Stone’s assistant coach at St. John’s. “It’s fantastic.”

The team, made up mostly of former and current St. John’s players, went undefeated in the tournament.

SJU junior Tatiana Duggan, a first-timer at the Empires, scored three goals in the tournament, including the first of the final in the 50th minute. Kaitlin Dufton had the second score of the game in the 58th.

Clinton gave up only two goals in four games and collected a series of highlight-reel saves over the course of the weekend.

“She’s so good,” Stone said. “It just made such a difference. You feel safe with her back there.”

St. Francis Prep graduate and current Red Storm player Jackie James fought through a 101-degree fever and flu-like symptoms to play defense in the last two games. She said playing in the Empires was a good way to go into the preseason.

“Now for the soccer season, we’ll be ready,” James said. “We know what we play like.”

As for Stone, this could be his last Empire State Games.

“The only way,” he said, “is down from here.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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