Brooklyn Boro

Happy homecoming for Blackbirds

LIU Ready for Brooklyn Opener after Strong Showing in Virginia

September 9, 2014 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two-time NEC Player of the Year Annika Foit will try to help LIU-Brooklyn get past visiting Fresno State in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday evening.
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Going national.

It’s the goal of any collegiate program that has maximized its potential in mid-major conference play.

The LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds’ dynastic women’s volleyball team, which has won eight of the last 10 Northeast Conference championships, took a big step in that direction over the weekend, posting an impressive 2-1 mark during the Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville, Va.

“It doesn’t help us to play competition that is not going to challenge us physically and mentally. Or that’s not going to force us to have higher standards to live by,” LIU coach Kyle Robinson told the Eagle last month as his squad prepared to build off its straight-set loss to second-ranked Penn State in the opening round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

“We’re right there or even better than some of these other teams,” noted Robinson, who has guided the Blackbirds to four NEC crowns, including a pair of unbeaten runs through the conference, during his six-year tenure at the Downtown school.

“I won’t go and face a team or play in a tournament that isn’t going to help us,” he added.

After going 1-2 in the season-opening Loyola-Marymount Tournament in Los Angeles two weeks ago, the Blackbirds (3-3) got off to a strong start against the host Cavaliers on Friday, taking the opening set.

But LIU dropped the next three stanzas, and was staring at a 1-3 record entering its final two matches of the weekend against previously unbeaten Alabama and Navy, respectively.

Suddenly, the Blackbirds looked more like a team that had bitten off more than it could chew than one that was ready to endure the rigors of a difficult non-conference slate.

But in what has to be considered one of the program’s most impressive non-league triumphs, the Blackbirds outlasted the Crimson Tide in five tough sets Saturday as reigning two-time NEC Player of the Year Annika Foit registered a career-high 32 kills.

“We feel like we have all the parts in place to be a nationally recognized program,” Robinson told the Eagle on the eve of his team’s home opener. “We have great leadership, help from our administration … we kind of feel like this is our time.”

Foit, named the NEC’s Player of the Week for her efforts over the weekend, got plenty of help from fellow senior Vera Djuric, who racked up 46 assists and 14 digs in the narrow win.

Against Navy, Foit led the way against with 17 kills and 12 digs while junior Tamara Ignjic added 17 kills of her own, earning the Blackbirds high praise from their opponents following the four-set victory.

“There is a reason why Long Island has gone to the last two NCAA Tournaments, and we saw that today,” Navy head coach Larry Bock said. “They have some good servers to go along with good height.”

“It’s always nice to win against teams from larger conferences,” Robinson added. “We just tried to compete at our highest level and learn and grow from everything. I thought the girls did well this weekend. We’re still not playing at championship form, but we’re getting better.”

Junior Adrianna Vinas Joy was also honored by the NEC for her performance in the Cavalier Classic, receiving the NEC Defensive Player of the Week Award after amassing 60 digs in the three matches.

The two-time league Librero of the Year will be back in her customary spot, along with the rest of her teammates, Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. as LIU opens the home portion of its schedule at the Steinberg Wellness Center against Fresno State.

The Blackbirds went 11-1 at home last season, suffering a straight-set loss to Big East rival Seton Hall on Oct. 16 that snapped their 18-match home winning streak.

LIU went on to win its next five home matches, including a straight-set rout of Central Connecticut State in the NEC Final on Nov. 24.

Fresno State (2-4) is coming in off a 1-2 performance in last weekend’s Sacramento State Invitational.

The Lady Bulldogs knocked off the host school before falling to both UC-Santa Barbara and Loyola-Marymount, which also handed LIU a straight-set loss in its season-opening match on Aug. 29.

“We look at every match we play as competition,” Robinson insisted. “Anyone can beat us and we can beat anyone. [The home opener is] not just another match, but the emphasis is on us working as hard as we can. We try to be at our best on a regular and consistent basis, whether it’s a conference match or a non-conference match. We don’t put any added pressure or emphasis on anything we can’t control.”

***

In other local college sports news, the reigning NEC champion St. Francis men’s soccer squad dropped a 2-1 decision at Vermont on Sunday afternoon, falling to 1-3 on the season.

Senior defender Andy Cormack, who scored the biggest goal in Terriers history to win last year’s NEC Final, tallied in the 79th minute of play against the Catamounts.

But Vermont got a pair of late goals to deny St. Francis a chance to reach .500 following its rousing 3-1 victory over Massachusetts in the opener of the two-game Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Windjammer Classic.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s match, juniors Harry Odell and John Makaya and freshman Dominick Falanga were all named to the All-Tournament squad for St. Francis.

The Terriers will conclude their three-game road trip in Easton, Pa. Saturday as they take on Lafayette.

St. Francis, which lost its home opener, 1-0, to Manhattan College here on Sept. 2, will shoot for its first win of the year at Brooklyn Bridge Park against Howard next Tuesday.

***

Over on the LIU pitch, senior forward Brice Merwine scored the first two goals of the season, but a late tally in the second overtime period doomed the Blackbirds in a 4-3 setback to Saint Joseph’s in their home opener Sunday.

LIU (0-3) will continue to chase its first win of the year Wednesday against visiting Rider at 6 p.m.

***

A tie for fifth place from senior Cristina Felip and junior Marisol Doglioli helped the LIU-Brooklyn women’s golf team to a third-place team finish at the Tignanelli Towson Invitational on Monday afternoon at the Towson Golf and Country Club in Phoenix.

***

St. Francis Brooklyn sophomore Luis Porto was named the Northeast Conference Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week after his performance this past weekend at Van Cortlandt Park.

Porto finished 17th at the 2014 Fordham Fieasco/Ed Joyce Memorial Race. It was the second-year runner’s second top-20 finish in as many weeks.

Porto, who completed the five-mile run in 27:49.78, was the top NEC finisher at the competition, which included competitors from Navy, Fordham, Fairfield, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth and Manhattan.


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