The St. Francis College Brooklyn Men’s Soccer team (5-1-2, 5-1-1 NEC) won its ninth NEC Championship in program history to set a new league record as it defeated LIU (3-1-4, 3-1-3 NEC), 6-5, in penalty kicks. With the win, the Terriers secured the NEC’s automatic bid to the NCAA College Cup where they will make their 10th appearance in the national tournament.
St. Francis captured its fifth NEC Championship in the last eight years and have won three of the last five conference championships. The Terriers have won their last three Championships on their home pitch, Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 5, and have not allowed a goal in any of those games.
2020-21 NEC Goalkeeper of the Year, sophomore Callum James led the Terriers to victory with a legendary performance in the penalty kick shootout, which clinched their ninth Championship. With the penalty kick shootout tied up at 5-5, LIU had the chance to win the game when Demetri Skoumbakis stepped up for his attempt. James made his first of three-straight stops as he turned away his goalkeeper counterpart.
The shootout remained tied at 5-5 after a miss by the Terriers. Vasilios Brisnovalis stepped up to the spot in the eighth round of the shootout, but was denied by James who made a tremendous save as he dove to the right to keep LIU off the board. Senior defender Vicente Gallardo then drove the ball into the back of the net to put the Terriers up, 6-5, in the ninth round of the shootout.
The game was left in the hands of St. Francis’ goalkeeper. LIU’s Andre Puente was the next shooter up for the Sharks and needed to put the ball into the back to extend the game. Puente sent the ball to the top right of the net and James made a game-winning lunging save to seal the Terriers’ ninth NEC Championship. James put forth a performance for the ages as made three consecutive saves in the shootout that secured the NEC Championship for St. Francis.
With the win, the Terriers improved to (9-0) all-time in NEC Championship games and have regained the conference record. St. Francis is now (2-0) in the NEC final against its long-time rival LIU (also defeated LIU in the 2017 Championship, 5-0).
HOW IT HAPPENED:
St. Francis Brooklyn – 0 | LIU – 0 (SFBK Wins 6-5 in PKs)
- James put together a performance for the ages as he recorded his third clean sheet of the season and made two saves in 110 minutes of action. The game was decided in a penalty kick shootout and James proved to be the star. James put one in the back of the net in the shootout and then went on to make three consecutive saves in PKs that clinched the NEC Championship victory in thrilling fashion. The Terriers’ goalkeeper was named the Championship MVP and earned a spot on the All-Championship Team for his heroic efforts.
- Gallardo also earned All-Championship Team honors as he put the Terriers out in front, 6-5, in the shootout. The defender recorded a pair of shots in the game, both of which were on target.
- Junior midfielder Sokol Ymeraj, senior midfielder Ivan Tapuskovic, junior forward Khaled Abdella, senior forward Nicolas Molina, James, and Gallardo all found the back of the net for the Terriers in the shootout.
- The Terriers will make their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. St. Francis has previously advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017.
- St. Francis outshot LIU, 24-6, with six shots going on goal, while the Sharks only had two on net.
- The Terriers attempted 14 corners and held the Sharks without a corner in the game.
- St. Francis picked up its fourth clean sheet of the season and its second in as many games against the Sharks.
NOTES FROM THE COACH:
“It’s magical, especially with the amount that we’ve been through. It’s been over a year since we’ve had a season, and to come back this strong, everyone’s bonded, and everyone’s done the work. We all deserve it,” said Championship MVP Callum James as he discussed winning the 2020-21 NEC Championship.
“The guys were incredible this year, and again, it comes down to craziness. Penalties. We were able to pull it out,” said Giovatto as he shared his reaction to the win.
“It’s a lot different. Every single day you worry about your team being shut down, not really thinking far ahead, and thinking about the next day only. What we asked of these kids is incredible. At the end of the day, they’re still college kids. They did every single thing we asked for the whole year. They deserve everything,” said Coach Giovatto as he discussed navigating the season through the pandemic.
“We’re extremely excited to go down there. We really rely on our defense; we take a lot of pride in that. To keep LIU off the board two games in a row, 110 minutes without giving up a goal, is really good stuff. We’re excited to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve been talking about it for a long time and I think it’ll be a special Tournament, especially going down to North Carolina and playing everything down there,” noted Coach Giovatto as he shared his thoughts on earning the NEC’s automatic berth into the NCAA College Cup.
The Terriers have earned the NEC’s automatic bid into the 2020-21 NCAA College Cup, which will be hosted in North Carolina. St. Francis will find out its first round opponent on Monday, April 19, during the NCAA Selection, which airs at noon on NCAA.com.
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