Sharks to host NEC Championships
LIU rallies past SFC Brooklyn in regular-season finale
Last season, the men’s soccer teams from Long Island University and St. Francis Brooklyn played 240 scoreless minutes over their two meetings before the Terriers edged the Sharks, 6-5, in a penalty-kick shootout to grab the Northeast Conference title and a trip to the NCAA College Cup.
Sunday’s regular-season finale between the Sharks and Terriers for the right to host this weekend’s NEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed wasn’t nearly as defensive.
Reigning NEC Player of the Week Assane Ben Fall, Emil Jaaskelainen and Fridtjob Andberg scored as LIU rallied from an early deficit to grab the top spot in the league with a 3-1 triumph over their long-time Downtown rivals.
With the win, the Sharks (9-5-1, 7-2 NEC) assured themselves of the top seed and a first-round matchup with No. 4 Bryant on Friday in Brookville, N.Y., where LIU moved its soccer program several years ago.
The Terriers (11-4-2, 7-2), who jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on Ivan Tapuskovic’s tally in the 30th minute, are relegated to the second seed and will face No. 3 Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday.
Having won five of the previous eight NEC crowns, including last season when they rolled into the second round of the NCAA Championships before losing on penalties to No. 3 Indiana, the Terriers defeated LIU at Brooklyn Bridge Park to take the 2020 title.
This time around, the Sharks will get to host their first-ever NEC Tournament on their Long Island campus.
LIU will be bidding for its third title in six years after winning the championship in 2015 and 2018. But that was when the Sharks were based Downtown on LIU’s Brooklyn campus.
The Terriers, who have won the NECs in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2020, surrendered a season high-tying three goals Sunday for the third time this year.
They appeared to be in prime position to host the NECs at BPP for the second straight year Sunday after Tapuskovic’s third goal of the campaign.
But Ben Fall, who scored two big goals at Mount St. Mary’s on Halloween to help the Sharks keep pace with the Terriers before Sunday’s regular-season finale, evened the match at the 33-minute mark.
Jaaskelainen snapped the 1-1 deadlock in the 66th minute and Andberg’s tally just over two minutes later settled matters.
SFC goalie David Santiago made three saves and LIU’s Demetri Skoumbakis stopped one shot for the Sharks, who ended the Terriers’ season-high six-game winning streak.
The Terriers should be seriously challenged by FDU (8-6-3, 6-1-2) on Friday. SFC blanked the Knights, 2-0, in Teaneck, N.J., on Oct. 24 in the only previous meeting between the schools this season.
The Sharks will host Bryant (6-7-2, 5-4) Friday in a rematch of their Oct. 3 encounter at LIU Soccer Park, where they pulled out a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs on two goals by Jaaskelainen, who finished the year with 15 tallies.
If both local programs win Friday, the Sharks and Terriers would meet in Sunday’s NEC Final in Brookville.
If neither wins, it will mark just the second time since 2012 that neither LIU nor SFC made it to at least the championship match.
But no one in Brooklyn or Long Island believes that will happen.
See you on Sunday!
In other local collegiate sports news, the Eagle would like to congratulate Brooklyn Friends School alum and local sporting icon Kyle Neptune for delivering a win in his debut as head coach of Fordham University on Tuesday.
Neptune, who spearheaded BFS’ run to the Class C State Championship in Glens Falls, N.Y., back in 2003, guided the Rams to a 77-67 triumph over Columbia in front of 1,100 fans at Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx.
A collegiate player at Lehigh University, Neptune became a key to two national championship teams at Villanova, serving as an assistant coach and top recruiter for Jay Wright.
The Rams (1-0) haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1992, a drought Neptune is eager to end.
“This is Fordham’s time,” the 36-year-old Brooklyn native said at his introductory press conference in March.
“I know this program well and I know its potential to recruit and develop winning young men both on and off the court who will inspire Fordham fans and the entire community.”
Local hoops fanatics interested in watching Neptune lead his team have several options.
The Rams will host SFC Brooklyn and LIU on Dec. 1 and 9, respectively.
If you want to see Neptune coach in his home borough a stone’s throw from where he made his legend at BFS, Fordham will be at Barclays Center on Dec. 12 to take on Miami in the Hall of Fame Invitational.
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