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LIU-Brooklyn soccer shares the wealth in latest win

Four Players Score as Blackbirds Extend Unbeaten Streak to Three

September 20, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sophomore Simen Hestnes had a goal and two assists Sunday as reigning NEC champion LIU-Brooklyn ran past Manhattan College with a big second half. Photo courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn athletics
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The mantra is a simple one for the defending Northeast Conference champion men’s soccer squad from LIU-Brooklyn.

“Can we get better today?”

No matter who asks it prior to a practice session or game, it’s the one burning question the Blackbirds thrive on and grow from as they try to grab a second straight NEC crown this season.

After a season-opening loss to Siena, long-time head coach TJ Kostecky’s squad has been getting significantly better, going an impressive 4-1-1 and extending its current unbeaten streak to three games (2-0-1) Sunday afternoon at LIU Field with a 4-1 victory over visiting Manhattan College.

The Magnificent Seven freshman class that Kostecky brought to Downtown Brooklyn last year, one that propelled the Blackbirds to their first league title since 2004, doesn’t appear to be suffering from any sophomore jinx as all four goals tallied Sunday came from second-year players.

Newly named NEC Player of the Week Simen Hestnes, who played a key role in last Friday’s home-opening 2-1 victory over No. 22 Rider, had a goal and two assists and fellow sophomores Erik Wahlin, Romario Guscott and Rasmus Hansen also scored as the Blackbirds improved to 4-2-1 on the season.

“They’ve got a year under their belt,” Kostecky told the Eagle Tuesday morning from his offices at the Downtown Brooklyn school. “The seven freshmen we had last season, with the year of experience and improvement in their own level, we are starting to jell a little bit earlier than we did last year.

“One of those seven [Christoffer Bjarre Solbakken] is out for the season,” the 18th-year head coach added. “Without him, we need to improve and get better. It’s been good to see obviously. There’s progress in training and improvement and it’s showing in the matches.”

It certainly took a little while to show on Sunday as the Jaspers, winless and goalless in their first five matches, came out playing with tremendous resolve despite their underdog status.

Hestnes, a Norwegian midfielder, set up the opening tally of the match at the 23-minute mark, blasting a shot off a Jaspers defender that landed on the foot of Wahlin, who deftly buried it from point-blank range to give the Blackbirds what proved to be a brief advantage.

Manhattan struck right back six minutes later, when Niels Kirch beat LIU senior netminder Logan Keys with a redirection into the lower right corner of the net to even the contest.

This gave the Blackbirds, known for their razor-sharp focus on the task at hand, an unexpected challenge over the final 45 minutes as the game remained deadlocked at the half.

“What happens is you have to sustain your effort and the same type of work ethic and competition throughout a match regardless of your competition,” Kostecky noted. “They equalized and got a goal and it was 1-1, they almost pushed for a second one.

“We talked about it at halftime that we have to step up our effort,” he revealed. “The good news is the guys did come together and worked together.”

Hestnes led the Blackbirds’ second-half charge, picking up a loose ball on the doorstep of the Manhattan goal following a shot from junior Na’eem Charles, taking a dribble and rocketing the ball into the net to put LIU ahead to stay.

“Sunday, his goal to put us ahead 2-1, he put it in the top corner of the net,” Kostecky said. “There was no other place to put the ball in the goal, but he found it. He blasted it from a hard angle. But these are things that he is bringing to the game. The game seems to slow down for him.”

The Blackbirds struck twice more in the second half, including Guscott’s goal, which was set up by Hestnes and Hansen, in the 63rd minute.

Not to be left out of the second-half surge, freshman Giuseppe Barone of Bay Ridge’s Xaverian High School put the finishing touches on the victory with a fancy back-heel flick pass to Hansen, the reigning NEC Rookie of the Year, who beat Manhattan goalie Connor Hayes to cap the scoring.

With three games left, including Friday’s home match against Saint Peter’s, before their NEC opener at Bryant on Sept. 28, Kostecky isn’t letting the Blackbirds take anything for granted.

“Everything is one training session after the other,” he insisted. “If you get ahead of yourself, you lose focus. The goal it to compete and win a championship and see where we can go from there.

“We always ask ourselves, ‘Can we get better today?’”

* * *

The St. Francis Brooklyn soccer squad, eager to reclaim the NEC title it captured in both 2013 and 2014, played to a 1-1 draw with Army at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sunday afternoon, marking the fourth double OT contest of the young season for coach Tom Giovatto’s squad.

Sophomore forward Leonard Kirschner of Germany scored from 20 yards out in the eighth minute as the Terriers (2-3-2) took the early advantage.

Senior goalie Seth Erdman finished with three saves in SFC’s latest 110-minute marathon, but was unable to keep Army completely off the board as the Black Knights equalized in the 74th minute off a corner kick that eventually got past Erdman off the head of freshman defender Zac McGraw.

The Terriers, who improved to 2-3-2 since a season-high three-game losing streak, were scheduled to host Saint Peter’s here at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

* * *

Brooklyn College first-year women’s soccer sensation Victoria Ramirez was named the CUNYAC Player of the Week after scoring three times in the Bulldogs’ last two matches, including Saturday’s 3-0 blanking of York.

Ramirez, a Valley Stream native, tallied twice, including the game-winner, in last Wednesday’s conference opener at Brooklyn College Field. She backed it up with yet another goal Saturday, netting the contest’s opening tally to give the Bulldogs (3-3, 2-0 CUNYAC) the lead for good.

“Vicky is a very good, technical forward with a number of offensive moves that will result in goals,” BC head coach Patrick Horne said of his freshman phenom.

Junior Cansu Usta of Bay Ridge’s Fort Hamilton High School and senior midfielder Jordan Kerwin of Midwood also scored for the Bulldogs, who got four saves from fourth-year goalie Samantha Rodriguez.

BC will host Medgar Evers on Wednesday as it looks to go 3-0 in league play.


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