Cormack's goal lifts St. Francis into NCAA Tournament
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
St. Francis Brooklyn junior forward Kevin Correa made a critical decision during Sunday' afternoon's Northeast Conference men's soccer championship game in New Britain, Conn.
He opted not to take what will likely go down as the most important free kick in Terriers history.
Having already scored twice off free kicks to level the hard-fought contest with Bryant for the right to advance to the NCAA Tournament, Correa was presented with a third opportunity seven minutes into the first overtime.
Sensing that the Bulldogs' defensive wall would be overloaded to stop his attempt, Correa instead stepped over the ball and allowed third-year defender Andy Cormack to put his boot to it.
Cormack's strike from just outside the left corner of the 18-yard box beat Bryant netminder Chris Knaub for a heart-stopping 3-2 victory.
The program-defining win secured the Terriers' first NEC title since 1998 and a Thursday night showdown with Big Ten champion Penn State in the opening round of the 2013 College Cup.
“We were practicing (free kicks) the whole week," Correa, who was named the NEC Tournament MVP, revealed during the post-game celebration. "I told [Cormack] they’re all going to move this way, so I told him to take it because the space would open.”
"Me and Kevin talked about who should take it. He told me I should take it, and it went exactly where I wanted it to go," added Cormack.
The Golden Goal boosted St. Francis' season mark to 12-5-1. It also completed a breathtaking week in which the Terriers blanked LIU-Brooklyn, 4-0, the weekend before last just to earn a spot in the playoffs and toppled top-seeded Central Connecticut State, 2-0, on a pair of goals from Correa in last Friday's semifinals.
“It’s been a long time [since we won the NEC Championship] and we had some tough times," admitted Tom Giovotto, who finally accomplished his primary goal of leading the Terriers back to the NCAAs in his seventh season as head coach at the Remsen Street school.
"We made a good run a couple of years back. It’s just been great, the alumni, the fan support. We have a lot of support behind us."
The Terriers appeared on the verge of falling short against the feisty Bulldogs, who opened the scoring only eight minutes into the contest on Brett LaRocque's one-timer past junior goalie Jack Binks.
Correa equalized on a brilliant left-footed free kick early in the second half, but Bryant reassumed command with a quick tally by Lucas Guerrero just 67 seconds later.
Fortunately for St. Francis, Correa wasn't done scoring.
His fourth goal of the tournament and second of the contest was deflected in after he blasted a shot into the wall of Bryant defenders in the 70th minute.
"We were never worried that we were one [goal] behind," Cormack intimated. "Kevin Correa is a monster. He’s going to go far.”
"Kevin was just Kevin again. He’s amazing," added Giovotto.
The 15-year NCAA Tournament drought behind them, the Terriers can now focus on upsetting the Nittany Lions in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
"Now, we need to get some sleep," a fatigued Cormack conceded. "We got NCAAs to come, so we have to concentrate on that now."
"This is the best experience I ever had in my life," Correa added. "It's just amazing."
It will be even more so if the Terriers find a way to stun Penn State Thursday night. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.
The St. Francis men's basketball team nearly pulled off its second stunning upset of a national powerhouse in 10 days Monday night before falling just short in a 56-50 loss to No. 9 Syracuse before 23,117 fans at the Carrier Dome.
The Terriers (2-2), who shocked defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami in their season opener on Oct. 8, took a 50-46 lead with just over four minutes to play when freshman forward Wayne Martin of Brooklyn's South Shore High School knocked down a free throw.
But Jerami Grant's tip-in with 1:29 to go tied the contest and the heavily favored Orange went on to close the game with a 10-0 run, thwarting St. Francis' hopes of becoming the NCAA's undisputed early season Cinderella.
Junior forward Jalen Cannon scored a game-high 16 points and Martin added 13 for the Terriers, who dropped their second straight contest but look very capable of seriously contending for their first-ever NEC Championship later this season.
"We're disappointed because I thought we gave ourselves a legitimate chance to win against the ninth- ranked team in the country," said St. Francis coach Glenn Braica. "But I'm really proud of our guys, we played extremely well in one of the most difficult environments in the country."
The Terriers will be in Conway, SC, on Saturday afternoon to face Coastal Carolina University in the third leg of their participation in the Maul Invitational Mainland Bracket.
St. Francis had its season-opening two-game winning streak snapped in last Saturday's 78-58 loss at Dayton in the opening game of the tournament.
The LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, in the midst of a 10-day break following their near upset of No. 23 Indiana last week, made some recruiting headlines by picking up a pair of talented twins and a point guard from Iceland.
Yes, you heard it right, Iceland!
Blackbirds coach Jack Perri announced the signings of Texas recruits Trevin and Trevon Woods of Houston, as well as the addition of Elvar Fridriksson of Reykjanesbaer, Iceland, who could be in line to succeed graduating point guard Jason Brickman next season.
The players will join the Blackbirds (1-1) for the 2014-15 season, and Perri believes all three will play a prominent role in helping LIU continue its recent success in the NEC.
"We are very excited about the additions of Elvar, Trevin and Trevon," Perri said. "All three are potential impact-type players who can step in and help us immediately next season."
The Woods twins, both 6-foot-6 and capable of playing guard or forward at the Division I level, have spent the past three years starring at Houston's Fort Bend Austin High School.
The dynamic duo combined to average 20.8 points and 12.1 rebounds for the Bulldogs last season.
"Trevin is an extremely talented and athletic wing that can score in a variety of ways," Perri said. "He can attack the rim and shoot from the perimeter as well. With his size and length he has the potential to be a real mismatch for opponents."
"Trevon is another talented and versatile wing," the second-year coach added. "He has a nice ability to pass, dribble and shoot and like his brother can really create mismatches. He can play several positions on the court."
Fridriksson, a 5-11 playmaker, is considered one of the top amateur guards in his native country. He was selected Youth Player of the Year and named a First-Team All-Star in the Dominos League last season.
Currently averaging 26 points and seven assists in Njardvik, the top division league in Iceland, Fridriksson will have big shoes to fill in replacing Brickman, who led the nation in assists last year and is already averaging 12.5 helpers per game this season.
"Elvar is a great kid and has a high basketball IQ," Perri said. "He has tremendous speed in the open court, excels with the use of ballscreens, can really pass and has the ability to make shots equally as well. He should fit in really nicely with the way we play."
The current Blackbirds will be back in action Friday night at UC-Irvine (10 p.m. EST).
In other Blackbird news, the women's volleyball team, which is seeking its eighth NEC Championship in the last 10 years, will host the league's annual tournament for the third straight time this weekend.
The top-seeded Blackbirds will take on No. 4 Robert Morris on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.
The championship match is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. at Steinberg Wellness Center.
Coach Kyle Robinson's dynastic program has won 32 consecutive NEC matches and is 44-2 in league play over the past three years.
Robinson, the Downtown Brooklyn school's all-time leader in career wins, will be bidding for his fourth championship in six seasons since taking the reins from former Blackbird coach Toby Rens.