LIU-Brooklyn men’s soccer leaves Brooklyn with a bang
Blackbirds capture NEC championship in LIU Field finale
As the seconds wound down on the final home soccer match ever at LIU Field Sunday afternoon, long-time Blackbirds head coach TJ Kostecky flashed back to last year’s Northeast Conference Tournament final at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“We set out a year ago to ‘create and have a lasting memory this year,’” Kostecky recalled telling his players following a deflating 5-0 loss to neighborhood rival St. Francis Brooklyn in the 2017 NEC Championship.
Twelve months later, the top-seeded Blackbirds made good on their coach’s credo, cruising to a 4-0 victory over No. 3 Bryant to win the NEC crown and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament in West Virginia, where they will take on the Mountaineers Thursday in Morgantown.
To call this a fairytale ending to the Blackbirds’ tenure in Downtown Brooklyn might be an understatement.
LIU (13-5-1), which will leave our fair borough with four NEC titles in all and two in the last four years, entered the campaign trying to overcome a legitimate dynasty on Remsen Street, where the Terriers had won back-to-back NEC crowns and four of five overall.
After getting off to a lackluster 1-3-1 start, the Blackbirds won 12 of their next 14 matches, including Friday’s 1-0 overtime triumph over No. 4 Fairleigh Dickinson here on senior standout Rasmus Hansen’s golden goal in the 95th minute.
Kostecky and his staff also found out last month that this would be their final year here in Brooklyn after the school revealed that all Division I games would now be played in Brookville, N.Y., on the LIU-Post campus.
That news upped the ante on creating Kostecky’s special memory here in Brooklyn, which has been his home for the past 20 seasons.
And the Blackbirds stayed true to form in the final, using a tenacious defense to create offensive opportunities, which they cashed in often, following a tense first half that saw LIU break in front 1-0 on junior Zach Peterson’s second goal of the season.
“We have done what we set out to do despite all the challenges that we faced,” Kostecky noted. “It’s an honor and it has been a privilege to coach them.”
Peterson, normally a center back who was pushed up into the offensive zone by Kostecky, tallied again in the 51st minute before Hansen and Chris Solbakken sealed the momentous victory with goals of their own in the 88th and 89th minute, respectively.
“They gave me a chance up top. I practiced hard; I give the credit to the coaches,” noted Peterson, who was named the NEC Tournament MVP for his effort.
“It feels great,” he added after his teammates and the 562 fans on hand flooded LIU Field as one — a final celebration on the pitch. “Unfortunately, this is the last season ever here.”
The season will resume Thursday when Kostecky expects his spirited squad to give the heavily favored Mountaineers, ranked 12th nationally, a good run for the right to advance to a second-round match at Georgetown on Sunday.
“I feel like this team can make a run,” he insisted. “This is probably the most talented team I have had the pleasure to coach over the last 20 years, and I have a feeling we are going to make some noise [in the NCAA Tournament].”
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