LIU-Brooklyn soccer rides wave of emotion to NEC title
Gut Out Two Shootout Victories to Nab First League Crown Since 2004
Head men’s soccer coach TJ Kostecky had a few words of inspiration for his Blackbirds during halftime of Sunday afternoon’s Northeast Conference title match against St. Francis University (Pennsylvania) at Downtown Brooklyn’s LIU Field.
“I looked at the guys and you could tell they were tired,” revealed Kostecky, whose team had barely survived Friday’s NEC semifinal against neighborhood rival St. Francis Brooklyn via a penalty kick shootout, and was trailing the visiting Red Flash, 1-0, at halftime of the final, with an NCAA Tournament berth on the line.
“So I gave them some words of inspiration. I simply told them, ‘This is our moment!’”
And what a moment it turned out to be.
Behind the brilliant goaltending of tournament most valuable player Logan Keys, the Blackbirds capped a perfect 9-0 run through conference play by rallying past SFU for their second straight shootout triumph, 2-2 (3-1 PKs), earning the Brooklyn school’s first NEC championship since 2004 and a first-round NCAA Tournament showdown with Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., on Thursday.
“It’s tough to describe. Its four years of a lot of hard work,” noted Keys, who made two critical saves to pull out a 1-1 (4-3 PKs) win over the two-time defending NEC champion Terriers on Friday before repeating the feat against the Red Flash Sunday.
“We put it together, we had some ups and downs,” he added. “I don’t think I’ve been through that much emotion in a game in a long time.”
Make that two games filled with enough emotion to fill an entire season for LIU, which has now reeled off 11 consecutive victories to remain unbeaten (11-0-1) since a 3-1 defeat at Saint Peter’s way back on Sept. 20.
Kostecky, whose side endured a season-high six-game winless skid prior to its epic run to the championship, relished the moment with his squad after Keys warded off SFU’s last shot to extend the shootout, launching a wild celebration on the turf at LIU Field.
“It’s something these young men will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Kostecky, who has been helming the LIU soccer program since 1999. “They did not want to lose. They said, ‘We are not going to lose this game.’”
And they didn’t, despite being a man down in both playoff contests, and needing a clutch second-half goal from freshman sensation Rasmus Hansen to force double overtime in the final.
“It’s incredible,” Kostecky added. “To be a man down as we were on Friday, and to go through [overtime] and deal with the pressure and win on PKs, and then to do the same thing [Sunday], to me a man down again in overtime, I don’t think you can write a script like this.”
They can continue writing it Thursday in Piscataway.
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