Late-season push has LIU-Brooklyn on verge of NEC playoff spot
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Down but never out, the LIU-Brooklyn women's soccer club continued its late-season resurgence with a 3-2 win over Bryant on Sunday afternoon at LIU Field.
Shino Kunisawa celebrated Senior Day with a goal and an assist in her home finale as the Blackbirds (6-10-1, 4-3 Northeast Conference) extended their season-high winning streak to three games. LIU also grabbed fourth place in the league standings with one game remaining on the regular season schedule -- Sunday's visit to Mount St. Mary's.
If the Blackbirds can make it four wins in a row in Emmitsburg, Md., this weekend, they'll be back in the NEC Tournament with an opportunity to capture their third consecutive league championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament Regionals.
After dropping their first two NEC contests, the Blackbirds have rebounded with four victories in their last five games overall, a run coach Tracey Barholomew credits to the team's ability to thrive under duress.
"I think the girls felt the pressure. They knew we needed to win," Bartholomew told the Eagle on Wednesday from her office at the Downtown school.
"Going into every game as if it's your last chance gave our team the confidence that's been lacking," she added. "They've been handling the pressure of it and feeling better about it."
Sunday also marked the final home game for LIU seniors Alexandra Bock, Danny Cardenas and goaltender Jessica Sexton, who made two saves against the visiting Bulldogs.
Junior Jen Spicer and freshman Jenn Peters also scored for the Blackbirds, who have amassed seven goals during their win streak after managing just one tally in their previous eight contests -- a drought that threatened to derail their quest for an NEC three-peat.
"A lot of it was getting opportunities, but not finishing," Bartholomew said of her club's prior offensive struggles. "We'd been breaking down defenses. This game we scored. I thought we played really well Friday [in a 3-2 home win over Robert Morris] and now we control our own destiny.
"For us, if we win [Sunday], we're in," the 14th-year coach added. "Going in on a win feels better. Obviously the plan is to do that. If we tie or lose, we rely on everyone else."
The St. Francis Brooklyn men's soccer team made the most of its first season at Brooklyn Bridge Park, capping its initial campaign at the sparkling new facility with Sunday afternoon's 1-0 victory over NEC rival Bryant.
The Terriers (9-4-1 overall, 3-2 NEC) got all the offense they'd need when senior forward Gabriel Bagot chipped a right-footed shot past Bryant goaltender Chris Knaub in the 57th minute after receiving a brilliant ball from freshman midfielder Fabian Suele, who recorded his first collegiate assist.
With the win, St. Francis moved into sole possession of third place in the NEC with two league games remaining on the schedule.
On Friday, the Terriers will travel to Teaneck, N.J., to take on defending NEC champion Fairleigh Dickinson before a regular season-ending showdown at fourth-place LIU-Brooklyn (5-8-2, 2-2-1) on Nov. 10.
Bagot, who recorded his seventh goal of the season and 24th of his career at the Remsen Street school, helped the Terriers improve to 4-1-1 on their home field after they spent the past several years hosting games at Brooklyn's Aviator Sports Complex, a good distance from their Downtown campus.
The Senior Day triumph all but assured St. Francis a spot in the upcoming NEC Tournament, which will kick off Nov. 15.
"It's a huge victory for us today," said Terriers head coach Tom Giovatto after his team recovered nicely from last Friday's 1-0 defeat at Central Connecticut State. "The guys worked hard today. ... Today's win was big as it's up to us to continue to work hard as the playoffs are around the corner."
"It was a big goal for us," added Bagot. "More importantly, the team picked up the win, three points in the standings. To score today (on Senior Day) in front of my family, some of them coming from Europe, it was very exciting and very fulfilling."
Junior netminder Jack Binks made three saves for the Terriers, who did LIU-Brooklyn a favor by dropping Bryant into a fourth-place tie with the Blackbirds for the coveted fourth spot in the standings.
The Blackbirds squandered an opportunity to jump ahead of the Bulldogs and Terriers with Sunday's 1-0 loss at FDU.
LIU will visit Sacred Heart on Sunday.
After going 9-6-1 this season, including 5-2-1 in CUNYAC play, the Brooklyn College men's squad will be the No. 3 seed in this week's league championships.
The Bulldogs fell to Baruch in last year's CUNYAC title game, but with seniors Dmitry Prokorfey, Peter Vavalle and Taras Frankivskyy leading the way, they were hoping to slide past sixth-seeded York College in Wednesday's quarterfinal matchup.
Prokofyev enters the tournament, which will be hosted by the Bulldogs, with the CUNYAC lead in points (34), goals (15) and game-winning tallies (five).
Vavalle has backstopped the BC defense with eight shutouts in net and Frankivskyy has two goals and three assists from his position along the back line.
The semifinals will begin Saturday.
Senior Shani Abrahams recorded her second career hat trick Monday afternoon to lead the Lady Bulldogs past York, 4-0, at BC Field.
Along with the three goals, Abrahams also had an assist to cap a perfect Senior Day for BC, which improved to 13-2 this season on the strength of 11 shutouts.
Prior to the start of the game, Abrahams and her classmates Angelica Romero, Meagan Cranston and Eka Beriashvili were all honored for their hard work and dedication in helping to build up the second-year program, which is in position to grab its first CUNYAC title in November.
BC was scheduled to close out the regular season Wednesday at Old Westbury before preparing to host next week's CUNYAC semifinal contest against CCNY.
The LIU-Brooklyn women's volleyball club made it 27 straight victories over NEC opponents with Sunday's straight-set triumph at Sacred Heart.
The Blackbirds, eager to repeat as NEC champions, improved to 16-7 overall and 9-0 in league play with a 25-16, 25-23, 25-18 win behind 15 kills and five digs from sophomore Tamara Ignjic.
Junior Vera Djuric collected 29 assists, eight digs, seven blocks and two aces for LIU, which will visit neighborhood rival St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon.
The Brooklyn Friends girls' varsity soccer team saw its dream season come to an abrupt halt Tuesday afternoon in Bay Ridge, but not before the program made historic strides under coach Gary Lawson and freshman sensation Halima Matthews.
The Blue Pride Panthers toppled the French American School of New York, 4-2, last week on the strength of four goals from Matthews, who has already notched 71 career tallies in her first two seasons at the Pearl Street School.
With the win, Friends captured the Independent School Athletic League title and earned a bid to its first-ever New York State Independent School Championship Tournament.
With an undefeated 11-0-3 mark and a top-10 ranking among all city soccer programs, the Panthers figured to give the Lady Blue Devils a serious challenge.
However, Poly Prep was able to keep a clean sheet en route to a 3-0 victory as BFS fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and saw a near-perfect campaign come to a disappointing close.
"Congratulations to Poly Prep for the victory, overall they thoroughly deserved the win," Lawson said. "Sometimes as a coach you have to hold your hands up and accept your opponents are better. Poly gave us our first and only defeat of the season, which gives some indication of the quality they have. We tried our best and the girls had a few chances to nick a goal but it wasn’t to be."
Seventh-seeded Poly Prep was scheduled to meet Hackley on Wednesday afternoon in the NYSAISS quarterfinals. The championship game will be held at Manhattanville College on Sunday evening.
As for the Panthers, they'll doubtlessly grow from the experience of having played at such a high level this season, and carry that momentum into next year.
"It has been a great season to go undefeated in league play through both divisions, and retain the ISAL League and Playoff championship for a second consecutive year," Lawson added. "The team has worked so hard from pre-season up to today, we had a +55 goal [differential] this season, which shows how good we have been at both ends of the field. We have been hard to break down and clinical in front of goal. To be acknowledged by NYSAIS and play in the state tournament was reward for such a great season. I'm very proud of the team and next year we will be looking to emulate this season."
The Bishop Kearney Track team won the Cross Country Championships at Van Courtland Park on Oct. 19.
The Kearney Tigers took the overall championship by defeating Archbishop Molloy and placing four runners in the top-10.
Sophomore Theresa Gallagher won the individual championship, edging her own sister, Jacqueline, by .29 seconds.
The two other students who finished in the top-10 were Kailey O'Grady (sixth) and Kaitlen Monahan (10th).
Theresa Gallagher joins her older sisters Kerri (2006) and Mary (2008) as winners of the Sophomore Cross Country Championship.