Terriers grab NEC regular-season title
Edge defending conference champion FDU, 2-1, at BPP
The St. Francis Brooklyn men’s soccer club has simply taken one step toward its ultimate goal.
At least according to head coach Tom Giovatto.
“Congratulations, but it’s on to the next game,” Giovatto said after the Terriers clinched their sixth Northeast Conference title Monday afternoon with a dramatic 2-1 victory over defending NEC champion Fairleigh Dickinson at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Giovatto is no stranger to winning at the diminutive Brooklyn Heights school.
He has delivered the Terriers to four NEC Tournament championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances during his 13-year tenure.
So it wasn’t surprising that earning a regular-season title didn’t elate the long-time coach more than any other game during the campaign.
Especially since the Terriers still have to host arch rival Long Island University at BPP next Monday before beginning their quest for another NEC tourney crown.
“We have LIU next week, they are playing incredible, they won their last two games, 4-0, respectively,” Giovatto noted. “It is going to be a big test for us and we need to be ready.”
The Terriers have passed virtually every test during this COVID-19 altered season, reeling off five consecutive wins since an Opening Day double-overtime loss at Merrimack on March 1.
SFC has knocked off Central Connecticut State, Mount St. Mary’s, Bryant, Sacred Heart and FDU, which appeared ready to hand the Terriers their first home loss since last season after Ideal Shefqeti got the Knights (2-3-1) even by scoring on a penalty shot in the 80th minute.
The Terriers, who got the game’s opening goal on a penalty kick off the foot of forward Nicolas Molina after fellow senior Vicente Gallardo was pulled down in the box in the 68th minute. were undaunted.
They struck with the game-winner just two minutes after Shefqeti forged a 1-1 tie as junior Ramchwy Saint Vil fed junior Khaled Abdella for the title-clinching tally, giving the Terriers (5-1) home-field advantage throughout the upcoming NECs.
“It’s been a crazy year, but the guys have been incredible, the work that they put in is amazing. All the credit goes to those guys, it has been incredible to see,” Giovatto said.
Sophomore goalkeeper Callum James earned his fifth win of the year between the posts, facing eight shots, none of which were on goal.
As for Giovatto, his 125th career win at SFC won’t mean as much to him as the wins the Terriers need over the next two weeks to take the title and return to the NCAAs for the first time since 2017.
“Every game means everything to us, we want to win every single time we are out there, we want to compete,” he insisted.
So do the Sharks (3-1-2), who are right behind SFC as the NEC’s current No. 2 seed entering next week’s match at BPP.
LIU, which now plays its home games in Brookville, N.Y., instead of its traditional Brooklyn environs, has outscored its last two opponents, CCSU and Mount Saint Mary’s by a combined score of 8-0.
On Monday, senior Jonas Dovland scored twice as the Sharks cruised to a 4-0 rout of the Mount.
LIU is out to grab its first NEC championship since 2018, the Sharks’ last year playing in Brooklyn.
Before FDU grabbed the 2019 title, the Terriers and Sharks had combined to win six consecutive NECs, including a pair of back-to-back championships for SFC from 2013-14 and 2016-17 respectively.
But before they can begin dreaming of hoisting a fifth trophy at BPP, the Terriers have plenty left to do.
“We might be in (the tournament), but we still want to play well next week,” Giovatto said.
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