Brooklyn Boro

Same old winning story for St. Francis, LIU soccer

Blackbirds, Terriers to battle for NEC regular-season supremacy on Friday

November 2, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Last season, the SFC Brooklyn Terriers lifted their third NEC Soccer Championship banner in four years at Brooklyn Bridge Park. They will have to knock off Downtown rival LIU-Brooklyn on Friday for a chance to host the NEC Tournament again. Photo courtesy of SFC Brooklyn Athletics
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For the third consecutive year, next weekend’s Northeast Conference Soccer Championships will be hosted right here in Brooklyn.

Now, it’s just up to our neighborhood squads to determine exactly where.

First-place and reigning NEC champion St. Francis Brooklyn will visit archrival LIU Brooklyn Friday afternoon at LIU Field with the league’s regular-season title and home-field advantage in the upcoming NEC Tournament on the line.

The Terriers (11-4-1, 5-0-1 NEC) have not lost a conference game since falling to the Blackbirds (5-7-3, 4-1-1 NEC) in a penalty-kick shootout during the 2015 NEC Semifinals at LIU Field.

SFC Brooklyn has since reeled off a 13-0-2 record against league opponents, including a two-game sweep through last year’s NEC Tournament at Brooklyn Bridge Park, en route to grabbing its third league championship in the past four seasons.

These two programs, which are situated exactly a mile apart in Downtown Brooklyn, have hosted each of the previous two NEC Championships while alternating titles.

So, it comes as no surprise that the 2017 champion will also be crowned here next weekend, with the semifinal matches to take place next Friday and the new NEC champion to lift the trophy Sunday afternoon at either LIU Field or BBP.

SFC, which has won each of its last four matches overall, will have the upper hand Friday as the Terriers need only to earn a draw against the Blackbirds to grab the No. 1 seed for next weekend.

That advantage was solidified Monday afternoon at BBP when SFC fought through 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts and a staunch Bryant Bulldogs defense to pull out a 1-0 overtime victory.

Sophomore Kieran Young delivered the game-winning goal at 1:27 of the first overtime, clinching the Terriers’ fifth consecutive postseason spot, and giving head coach Tom Giovatto a leg up in his hunt for a fourth NEC title in the last five seasons.

“The weather conditions were definitely the most difficult of my entire career,” Giovatto admitted after SFC survived the blustery conditions.

“The victory had nothing to do with skill or strategy,” he added. “Fortunately, we got the lucky bounce and came out with the win today.”

Freshman forward Chris Gruver, the reigning NEC Rookie of the Week, began the winning play by driving down right wing before getting a good ball through to junior midfielder Amir Islami.

Young, a Scotland native and back-up forward, dashed down the center of the field, picked up the cross from Islami and drove it into the net to keep the Terriers’ NEC unbeaten streak alive entering its biggest match of the year.

“It’s an amazing feeling to get a game winner for my first career goal,” Young noted. “I saw a lot of open space in front of the net and Amir gave me a great ball.”

“I’m really happy for Kieran,” Giovatto added.  “He works very hard in practice every day and he delivered for us when he received his opportunity.”

The Blackbirds not only kept pace, but assured themselves a shot at capturing the NEC regular-season crown when they held on a for a 1-1, double-overtime tie at Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday night.

Christoffer Bjarre Solbakken scored the equalizer for the Blackbirds in the 57th minute off assists from Filip Nordstrom and Rasmus Hansen as LIU denied SFC a shot at clinching the No. 1 seed before the annual Battle for Brooklyn match.

Freshman goalie Anthony Sciola made three big saves in the extra periods for the Blackbirds, who are doubtlessly eager to avenge their 1-0 loss to SFC at BBP in last year’s regular-season finale.

But they will need to win the contest in order to leap ahead of the Terriers in the standings and make sure that LIU Field is the host site for the second time in three seasons.

In 2015, long-time head coach TJ Kostecky’s crew became just the third NEC squad in history to go undefeated through an entire league slate, finishing the stirring title run off with a pair of wild shootout wins in the tournament, including a 4-3 triumph over SFC in the semifinals.

Last year, Giovatto’s squad responded by going 6-0-1 in conference play, a mark they can match with a victory over the Blackbirds on Friday, and didn’t allow a single goal to an NEC foe, blanking Sacred Heart and St. Francis University in the tournament.

While neither coach will admit it, Friday’s match is likely just a preview of yet another playoff showdown between the Brooklyn teams to determine who will reign supreme in the NEC this year.

If either the Terriers or Blackbirds grab the crown in 2017, it will mark the fifth consecutive season one or the other will be the best unit in the NEC, not to mention the Downtown soccer scene.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m., Friday.


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