St. Francis men’s soccer takes 4th NEC title in 5 years
Terriers continue dynastic reign, play Fordham in NCAA Tournament
The St. Francis Terriers found a perfect way to stamp themselves as a dynasty for the ages in the Northeast Conference on Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP).
NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player Ali Tounkara scored a pair of goals, the Terriers’ stingy defense stifled LIU Brooklyn throughout the contest and a throaty crowd relished every moment of the 5-0 victory as St. Francis College (SFC) Brooklyn captured its fourth league title in five seasons.
“This was a complete performance today against a very good team,” said Terriers head coach Tom Giovatto after his club completed a second straight unbeaten run against conference opponents with perhaps its most dominant performance of this ongoing reign of NEC supremacy.
Tounkara, a junior forward from France who tallied twice in Friday’s 3-0 whitewashing of Robert Morris at BBP in the semifinals, put the Terriers in front for good in the 10th minute.
The 5-foot-11 striker weaved his way through the Blackbirds’ defense and beat LIU netminder Anthony Sciola to the lower-left corner of the net for a 1-0 advantage.
“It was great to score an early goal,” said Tounkara after the Terriers celebrated their second straight championship on their home pitch.
“There was a lot of pressure leading up to the game so to score that fast gave us a great amount of confidence and put us in a good position,” he added. “The MVP is nice, but I wouldn’t have been able to achieve it without the help of my teammates.”
The deft-footed Tounkara added his fourth goal of the two-game tourney and team-high eighth of the year in the 59th minute to stretch the lead to 3-0, erasing any hope of a comeback for the Blackbirds, who finished the year second-best in the conference and in their very own neighborhood.
“Ali was incredible for us,” said Giovatto, who will have Tounkara back next season when the Terriers try for an unprecedented NEC three-peat.
“When you have a hot striker, you ride him and that’s what we did with him over the last few days.”
The Terriers, long noted for their unbending back line and the solid goaltending of senior Robert Bazzichetto, who completed his seventh shutout of the year Sunday, also got plenty of help from senior and Brooklyn native Dominick Falanga during this historic run.
The New Utrecht High School alum briefly tied Tounkara for the team lead in goals this season in the 24th minute, turning a 20-foot cross into the box from sophomore defender Marco Torriani into a perfectly placed header for SFC’s second goal.
Falanga also extended his career for at least another game as the likely NEC Player of the Year will travel with his teammates to the Bronx Thursday night for a showdown against Fordham in the First Round of the NCAA College Cup.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better and I’m so proud of our guys,” gushed Giovatto, who can guide his team to Charlottesville on Sunday for a second-round tilt against fifth-seeded Virginia with a win over the Rams.
Just a week previously, the Terriers needed to grind out a 2-1 overtime victory over the Blackbirds at LIU Field just to capture the NEC regular-season crown for a second straight year.
Senior forward Nadim Saqui’s Golden Goal in the 102nd minute decided the Battle for Brooklyn, and likely went a long way toward determining which one of these neighboring programs would represent the NEC in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
“I’m not sure if we learned anything from playing [LIU] a week ago, however, I’m glad that we won that game and were able to play on our home field today,” said Giovatto, whose club hasn’t lost to an NEC opponent since a 2015 setback to the eventual NEC champion Blackbirds in the tournament semifinals.
Saqui and junior midfielder Sami Gliguem also scored in the title match for the Terriers, who surrendered only two goals while going 7-0-1 in their NEC contests this season.
“The big crowd really helped us and getting a quick goal put a lot of pressure on them knowing that we don’t give up many goals,” added Giovatto.
Fordham (12-5-2) will be a formidable foe for the Terriers after earning its first-ever at-large bid to the NCAAs following a disappointing overtime loss to UMass in the Atlantic 10 Championship game this past weekend.
The Rams had won five of their previous six matches and boast a 5-2 record at Jack Coffey Field.
Tounkara, Falanga, Saqui and sophomore defender Faouzi Taieb earned All-Tournament Team honors for SFC, while LIU’s Rasmus Hansen, Daniel Quiros Herrero and Naeem Charles also made the squad.
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment