By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
LIU-Brooklyn women's soccer coach Tracey Bartholomew admitted last week that her defending Northeast Conference champions would have to "step up" offensively to fill the vacancy left by high-scoring forwards Ariana Calderon and Kayleigh Morgan.
Judging from their season-opening 2-0 loss at Seton Hall last Friday, Bartholomew knew what she was talking about.
Despite a strong effort from reigning NEC Goalkeeper of the Year Jennifer Bannon, the Blackbirds (0-1) were blanked by the Lady Pirates, who used two goals from Stephanie Soma to spoil LIU's first game back on the pitch since losing to Virginia in the opening round of last year's NCAA Tournament.
“We knew this team was defending champs in their league, so we knew we had to be really motivated to get a win," noted Soma, who scored off feeds from Amie Ruhe and Marie Klemme, leaving LIU in search of win No. 1 as it travels to Colorado for this weekend's Omni Tournament in Boulder. The Blackbirds will meet the host school Buffaloes on Friday evening, and the University of Denver Sunday afternoon.
"Unfortunately, graduation brings some tough openings in the lineup. When you lose such scoring touch, you need other players to step up," Bartholomew noted after her team received a second-place preseason ranking from the NEC coaches' poll.
Calderon and Morgan provided the perfect 1-2 punch up front for the Blackbirds, who brought 11 seniors back to Downtown Brooklyn in the hopes of capturing their first-ever back-to-back NEC crowns this season. The high-scoring duo combined for 14 of the Blackbirds' 33 goals a season ago en route to winning the NEC Tournament for the third time in program history and second under the guidance of Bartholomew, who is entering her 13th campaign at the helm.
Junior Shino Kunisawa, one of the players the Blackbirds are relying on to produce goals, got off the first clean shot of the season with a strong header in the 12th minute Friday night, but Seton Hall netminder Gina Maiorana was able to stop the attempt before Soma opened the scoring six minutes later.
Bannon finished with seven saves for the Blackbirds, who went 4-6-1 in non-conference action last year, steeling themselves for an impressive 8-2 run in NEC play.
LIU will host its home opener on Sept. 2 against the University of Baltimore-Maryland County at 1 p.m.
The LIU men's soccer squad will kick off its season Friday afternoon at George Washington University, with senior Jakeem Johnson leading the Blackbirds into battle.
Johnson, who led LIU in goals in each of his first two seasons, was named the All-NEC Second Team for the third time in four seasons Monday. He has 19 career goals for the Blackbirds, who were picked to finish ninth in the NEC preseason coaches' poll.
The first-year Brooklyn College women's soccer program will get underway Sept. 7 against CCNY, but the program's founding coach Patrick Horne is already raring to go.
"Our first season is the most important!" Horne insisted during a recent interview on the school's web site. "I hope to create a professional environment for the team, establish a professional way of doing things and develop a team that will be very competitive for 90 minutes, plus play a beautiful game."
While two-time defending NEC champion LIU-Brooklyn has gobbled up a lion's share of the college basketball news in our borough of late, the St. Francis Terriers are ready to make a serious move for the crown of Brooklyn's best Division I squad this coming season.
The Terriers, who went 15-15 last season, losing to Quinnipiac in the opening round of the NEC Tournament, released their 2012-13 schedule on Friday.
The slate features a showdown against Big East rival St. John's on Nov. 15 during the Barclays Center's inaugural Holiday Hoops Festival. The Terriers will also meet the Blackbirds in one of the two annual Battle of Brooklyn games at Barclays on Feb. 10. St. Francis opens the season at Lafayette on Nov. 9. The home opener will be Nov. 20 against Army.
“We are really pleased with our non-league schedule and believe that it gives us a chance to have a successful regular-season, and hopefully prepare us for a run in the postseason,” said Glenn Braica, the reigning NEC Coach of the Year.
“We are particularly excited to play two games in the beautiful new Barclays Center against St. John's and LIU-Brooklyn," he added. "Brooklyn finally has a state-of-the-art arena to call its own and we believe that it will provide many memorable moments for our program down the road.”