St. Francis soccer takes early lead in NEC Race
Jump Out to 2-0 Conference Mark Behind Player of Week Falanga
The conditions were brisk, but the St. Francis Brooklyn men’s soccer team remained red-hot.
The title-hungry Terriers ran out to the top position in what promises to be an ultra-competitive Northeast Conference race over the weekend, posting back-to-back wins to open league play, including Sunday’s 3-0 blanking of Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) under extremely windy conditions at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Brooklyn native and New Utrecht High School alum Dominick Falanga spearheaded SFC’s charge, scoring the clinching goal in Friday’s 2-0 win over Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Connecticut before adding another tally in Sunday’s triumph.
The junior defender, who has three goals on the season, captured the NEC Player of the Week award for his heroics on the pitch, helping the Terriers remain one step ahead of neighborhood rival and defending league champion LIU-Brooklyn (7-3-2, 1-0-1 NEC) for the top spot.
“He’s been playing really well the last few games,” SFC head coach Tom Giovatto said of Falanga. “He scored a couple of big goals and has been very good defensively as well in the midfield.”
Senior defender Collins Loakandi opened the scoring against FDU with his first of the year with just under 14 minutes remaining in regulation, and junior Federico Curbelo followed Falanga’s goal with one of his own, benefitting from a hand ball committed by FDU, to cap the late second-half surge.
Senior forward Yussuf Olajide, who emerged as a late-game hero for SFC during its non-conference slate, powering in a pair of overtime winners, broke a scoreless deadlock in Friday’s NEC opener with his team-leading fourth goal of the year.
Fourth-year goaltender Seth Erdman made three saves Sunday en route to his second shutout of the campaign as the Terriers (6-4-2, 2-0 NEC) improved to a sizzling 5-1-1 over their last seven matches, shaking off an early three-game skid in non-league action.
“We’re off to a good start, two shutouts for the weekend and we’re really excited about that,” Giovatto told the Brooklyn Eagle from his offices at the Remsen Street school on Tuesday afternoon. “We still have a lot of improvement to make, but I’m happy with the results.”
SFC, which won the NEC crown in both 2013 and 2014, is eager to get back to the top of the conference after bowing out in the tournament semifinals last year to eventual champion LIU.
The Blackbirds rallied for a 1-1 draw at Bryant in their NEC opener in Smithfield, Rhode Island on Friday, getting a clutch penalty kick in the 89th minute from reigning NEC Rookie of the Year Rasmus Hansen.
They fell behind 1-0 early in the first half against Central Connecticut State here at LIU Field on Sunday before putting on an historic offensive display following intermission to post a convincing 7-2 victory.
Sophomore Simen Hestnes, part of the sensational recruiting class that spearheaded the Blackbirds’ charge to the title last November, had two goals and two assists as LIU scored six goals in the second half.
Fellow second-year standout Naeem Charles also had a pair of tallies and a helper as LIU put up seven goals for the first time since Oct. 20, 2007, when it accomplished the feat against SFC at Brooklyn’s Aviator Sports Complex.
LIU had not scored seven goals in a home match since Sept. 18, 1996 against Iona, and the five-goal margin of victory was the Downtown school’s biggest since a 6-0 blanking of Sacred Heart on Sept. 12, 1998.
Redshirt sophomore Romario Guscott and junior defender Brian Paredes also contributed to the offensive barrage from LIU, which will continue its quest to repeat as NEC champions on Friday at Robert Morris.
The Terriers will also return to the pitch Friday in Loretto, Pennsylvania against St. Francis (Pennsylania).
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Freshman goaltender Jerron Streete of neighboring Midwood High School made 11 saves Saturday afternoon as Brooklyn College (BC) held on for a 1-1 draw with CUNYAC rival Baruch College in Maspeth.
Streete, who didn’t need to make a single stop in last Wednesday’s 7-0 rout of Medgar Evers at BC Field, was much busier against Baruch, which held a 25-18 advantage in shots, including a 12-7 edge in attempts on goal, during regulation and the two ensuing overtime periods.
Senior forward Valentyn Kharko scored in the 23rd minute for BC, which improved to 6-6-2 overall and 3-1-2 in conference play entering Saturday’s CUNYAC contests against Hunter on Randall’s Island.
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