WRITTEN BY ROBERT DEVITA
The St. Francis College men’s soccer team will kick-off the semi-finals of the NEC Tournament against the Bryant University Bulldogs. The Terriers locked up third place in the NEC with a 2-0 victory over LIU Brooklyn in their final game of the regular season last Sunday.
The stage is set for yet another competitive playoff matchup between these two conference rivals. The Bulldogs will be looking to seek some revenge since the Terriers beat them last season in the NEC Championship game.
It was a solid regular season for the Terriers who finished (9-5-4) overall and (4-1-2) in conference play. They started the season off slow going winless in their first five games, but once they were able to get a win on the board they never looked back.
With their struggles far behind them, they were able to go (9-1-3) in the 13 games after their five game winless streak. They found their niche and have played a tenacious brand of defense that has propelled them into the postseason.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, the Bulldogs finished with a better record than them, (9-4-3) overall and (5-0-2) in conference play, therefore giving them home field advantage in this do or die matchup. But the Terriers have proven themselves to do well under pressure, as they took home the championship title last year while in fourth place, a seat lower than what they hold now.
These two conference foes squared off once early this season. On October 26, the teams meet in Smithfield, Rhode Island, where the contest ended in a 1-1 draw in double-overtime, as both teams seemed to be evenly matched throughout.
In their first meeting the Bulldogs took the lead in the 56th minute due to a series of unfortunate events, which ended in an own-goal for the Terriers. The Bulldogs would not lead for long; the Terriers were able to tie the game up on a goal by sophomore defender Paul Galimi.
The game was highlighted by fantastic defense displayed by both sides. Terriers’ redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Binks was phenomenal as he has been all year long. He saved six shots, and the only goal scored against him was an own-goal.
Moving forward to this playoff matchup the Terriers need to get their leading goal scorer junior forward John Makaya going. He will be the x-factor in the matchup. If he can get free and create some quality scoring chances, he should be able to find the back of the net.
Opposing defenses have made it difficult for Makaya to get anything going of late. Makaya has only scored one goal in his last six games, so he is definitely due to score a big one.
Some other players who are noteworthy on the Terriers are redshirt senior co-captain Riccardo Milano, freshman midfielder Vincent Bezecourt, and senior co-captain defender Andy Cormack. These three players along with Binks and Makaya earned All-Conference honors.
Binks and Milano were named to the All-Conference First Team. Bezecourt, Cormack and Makaya were named to the All-Conference Second Team. These five have been standouts all season long and they need to bring their ‘A’ game in the playoffs.
Like the Terriers, the Bulldogs have a defensive first mentality. Junior goalkeeper Chris Knaub anchors the team’s defense, much like Binks does for the Terriers. In the first matchup it was clear that goals would be at a minimum due to the two studs defending the net.
The action is set to begin at 6:30 pm tomorrow night from Loretto, Pennsylvania. The winner of the game will go onto the NEC Championship game where they will face the winner of St. Francis University and LIU Brooklyn. Don’t miss a minute of the game and stream it live from http://necfrontrow.com/.