Sharks and Terriers top NEC coaches’ poll
LIU unanimous choice to repeat as conference champions
For nine of the last 10 years, either Long Island University or St. Francis College has represented the Northeast Conference in the men’s NCAA College Cup.
According to the league’s coaches, 2022 doesn’t figure to be any different.
Last week, the NEC released its annual Coaches’ Preseason Poll, revealing LIU as the unanimous favorite to repeat as league champions and SFC Brooklyn as the runner-up.
Of course, it could go either way, as evidenced by just the past two seasons or the past decade.
In 2020, the Terriers made an historic run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen after toppling the Sharks in the NEC Final via penalty kicks after 120 minutes of heart-pounding scoreless futbol.
The Sharks returned the favor last year, edging SFC in penalties before stunning Maryland on its home pitch in the opening round of the national championship tournament.
LIU ultimately lost to Saint Louis University in the second round, but the Sharks are returning more than a handful of key players from that squad, most notably sophomore scoring sensation Emil Jaaskelainen, who hit the back of the net a league-leading 15 times in 2021.
Matthias Heiland, Robert Winkler, Jeremy Guardado and Alan Martinez were All-NEC Rookie Team selections a season ago for the Sharks, and Jaaskelainen and Henry Haferkorn were both named to the United Soccer Coaches’ Players to Watch list just ahead of this campaign.
LIU head coach Michael Mordocco welcomed his squad back to training last week in Brookville, N.Y., in anticipation of yet another shot at the NEC crown and even deeper run in the NCAAs.
The Sharks will receive their NEC championship rings when they host Stony Brook for their season opener on Aug. 25.
But the Terriers, winners of six NEC titles under head coach Tom Giovatto, will have their sights set on reclaiming the crown.
“Off of an incredible season that left us hungry for greater success, I am eager for our team to take the field for the 2022 slate,” said Giovatto, who will watch his squad kick off the campaign at UMass-Lowell on Aug. 25.
SFC lost 2021 NEC Player of the Year El Mahdi Youssoufi to NYCFC in this year’s MLS Draft, but will have plenty of returning talent to challenge LIU for the title, including First Team All-Conference midfielder Sokol Ymeraj and Second Team All-Conference goalkeeper David Santiago.
Though both squads will engage in non-conference action before jumping into the NEC slate in late September, most Sharks and Terriers fans here in Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights will look forward to the annual season-ending clash between the long-time rivals.
That showdown will take place Nov. 3 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the teams battled to a tie two seasons ago before the Terriers beat the Sharks in the NEC Championship match at the same site.
Last year, the Sharks were able to top the Terriers in Brookville before beating them again for the league title on their home pitch.
Fairleigh Dickinson, the only program other than LIU or SFC to win the NEC title in the past decade (2019), was ranked third in the preseason coaches’ poll and Merrimack took fourth place.
Saint Francis University was voted fifth in the rankings, followed by Central Connecticut, Sacred Heart, Howard and Stonehill, the newest member of the NEC.
Just ahead of their best-of-three first-round WNBA playoff series against defending champion Chicago, the New York Liberty found out that All-Star point guard Sabrina Ionescu won her second Eastern Conference Player of the Month award.
After winning four Player of the Week awards, Ionescu was honored as Player of the Month for the second consecutive time.
She spearheaded the Liberty’s push to their second straight postseason berth by guiding them to a 5-2 finish this month and the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.
Ionescu averaged 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game on 41.9% (44-105) shooting from the field. She also put together two 30-plus point games in August.
New York was slated to open the series Wednesday night in Chicago.
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