SFC’s historic NCAA run ends in shootout
Underdog Terriers outlasted by third-seeded Hoosiers
The St. Francis Brooklyn men’s soccer team brought its vice-like defensive game from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Wilmington, North Carolina last week.
And head coach Tom Giovatto’s charges proved they can play with any team in the country on any pitch at any time.
After stunning the University of Milwaukee by winning their first NCAA Tournament game since 1978 on Thursday, the Northeast Conference champion Terriers took third-seeded Indiana to the limit before suffering a 2-1 loss via a sudden-death shootout Sunday at UNCW Stadium.
“I’m so proud of the boys,” gushed Giovatto after SFC won its first College Cup contest since a first-round victory over Adelphi during the Jimmy Carter administration.
The Terriers snuck past Milwaukee, 2-1, behind senior midfielder Ivan Tapuskovic’s golden goal in the second overtime and five saves from NEC Goaltender of the Year Callum James.
Tapuskovic also assisted on junior El Mahdi Youssoufi’s tying goal late in the second half.
Though they made history with the win, the Terriers weren’t done chasing a national title.
Faced with No. 3 Indiana on Sunday, SFC once again tightened up along the back line after surrendering Victor Bezerra’s first-half goal.
Youssoufi got the Terriers even in the 78th minute off an assist from Ramchwy St. Vil, and from there it was anyone’s game until SFC got beat 3-1 in the sudden death shootout after two overtime periods, mostly due to the brilliance of Indiana netminder Roman Celentano.
“I thought we frustrated Indiana, I think we had the better of the opportunities in the game,” noted Giovatto after SFC outshot Indiana, 15-7. “A little unfortunate. They have the best keeper in the country, and he proved it today.”
The Hoosiers’ last line of defense made five saves and stopped three shooters in the extra session to send Indiana to the Sweet 16 in Cary, N.C., where IU will take on Marquette Thursday.
“Give credit to (SFC) Brooklyn. They were a tough team, tough matchup,” admitted Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley.
The Terriers proved their toughness throughout this unusual campaign, which saw SFC go 6-2-3 overall despite COVID-19 protocols, a shortened schedule and four grueling overtime games before its eventual elimination.
“Their effort all year was incredible, and their fight was just unbelievable. They never give up and play till the last second.” said Giovatto following SFC’s fifth NCAA appearance in the past eight seasons under his guidance.
“We knew how good Indiana was and how good they are. We came in with a game plan. Our guys followed it to a tee.”
They almost followed it straight into the regional semifinals.
But that will have to wait until next year, when the Terriers will be back at BPP challenging anyone in the NEC to take their crown and deny them another shot at the nation’s best.
In local pro sports news, the Brooklyn Nets announced Monday that veteran free-agent guard Mike James has re-upped for another 10-day contract, his second since joining our borough’s NBA franchise last month.
Though terms of the deal were not released, as per team policy, the Nets (43-22) saw a lot they liked from James during his initial six-game stint. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Oregon native averaged 6.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists for Brooklyn before getting another short deal.
In 42 NBA games with Brooklyn, New Orleans and Phoenix, James holds career averages of 8.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 18.8 minutes per contest.
Coming off their second straight loss, a 117-114 setback at Milwaukee on Sunday, the Nets were hoping to earn a split with the Bucks in Tuesday night’s rematch.
Brooklyn entered Tuesday’s contest trailing Philadelphia by one game for the best record in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
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