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Brooklyn has miracle season

In only its second year as a college program, the Brooklyn College Women’s Soccer team won the CUNYAC (City University of New York Athletic Conference) championship by defeating the No. 1 seed College of Staten Island, 3-1, at Brooklyn College Field on Saturday, Nov. 9. The Bulldogs are the first Brooklyn College soccer team to capture a CUNYAC Championship and earn a berth in the upcoming NCAA Division III Tournament. The Bulldogs (15-3) will travel to Baltimore on Saturday, Nov. 16 to play No. 5 nationally-ranked Johns Hopkins University (18-1-1)

This historical season began in 2012 when, after a national search for a coach to start the new program, Patrick Horne, this writer, was hired. My 20-plus years of experience in coaching college soccer at the Junior College, Division II and Division III levels with both men and women enabled me to create the right cooperative atmosphere required to have everyone working together and cooperating with each other and the coaching staff. Also, my ability to recruit and put a team together played a big part in our success. The support from the school was also crucial to the team’s early success.

In our first year, we finished with a 6-7-1 record; our captain Shani Abrahams won the CUNYAC Rookie of the Year award and five players were named to the CUNYAC All-star team. This season began with a rigorous preseason at the school’s new soccer stadium as most of the players ran the mile under seven minutes on the first day of training. Two-a-day sessions were grueling, but the women survived and went on to win our first seven games with shut-outs. The first defeat came at College of Staten Island, 3-1; we went on to lose a second game to CSI, with the only other loss coming against Old Westbury College to end the regular season at 13-3. We ended with a 5-1 Conference record, good for second to CSI.

As the CUNYAC play-off tournament began, we faced the difficult challenge in the semifinals, of having to beat a City College (CCNY) team that we defeated twice during the regular season, but the women were up to the task and defeated CCNY for the third time, 3-1, with Junior Bergelie Louis and sophomore midfielders Sayla Flores and Shani Nakhid-Schuster tallying for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were now faced with yet another difficult task: beat CSI, the only CUNYAC team that defeated us, and twice, during the regular season. CSI had beaten John Jay, 3-0, in the other semifinal.

In the final, the Bulldogs were ready for the Dolphins! In the championship game, Louis out paced the CSI defense and rounded the on-rushing Dolphins goal keeper, Victoria Donegan, to score in an open goal in the 13th minute. CSI’s Dem-Jean Martorano equalized from a corner kick in the 19th minute to end the half tied at 1-1.

In the 51st minute, our super freshman Jordan Kerwin, who finished with 18 goals on the season, scored from a cracking left-footed shot that went high into the top of the left side of the goal that Donegan had no chance to save, then captain and senior Abrahams, who ended with 15 goals and 10 assists on the year, had the final say as she ran past two CSI defenders to score from a low shot that squeezed just inside the right goalpost.

Flores had the assists on the goals by Kerwin and Abrahams; she also had an assist and a goal in the semifinal and was named MVP of the tournament. “Playing with your head and never giving up will take you to the top,” Flores told reporters after the game. “That is what we all did today and what we will continue to do as a team.”

Our defense, which recorded 11 shutouts during the season, was anchored by freshman sensation Jasmine Fermin from Madison High School in Brooklyn. Junior defender Janet Rodriguez one of the original members of the team, praised her teammates, “Today’s win is due to teamwork and shown by my teammates each and every day in practice. This win makes all the physical and mental challenges to this point well worth it. It’s a dream come true to compete against top schools in the NCAA Tournament, and I’m confident my team will play exactly the same as we did today, with heart and like Bulldogs!”

The Brooklyn Bulldogs came a long way during the season; they worked hard in every practice and every game and overcame all the obstacles to accomplish the goals we set, one of which was to win the CUNYAC Championship.

MLS Playoffs

In the MLS Eastern Conference finals, Sporting Kansas City and host Houston Dynamo played to a goalless draw; Sporting will look to wrap up the Conference title and move on to the MLS Cup with a win at home. Sporting defeated the New England revolution in the semifinal round, while Houston topped the New York Red Bulls in the other semifinal. Sporting Kansas City will host the second leg.

In the Western Conference there is battle for the championship. Real Salt Lake beat Portland Timbers, 4-2, in the first leg; the second leg will be in Portland, which must win by at least two goals to reach the MLS Cup finals, played at the highest seed. Real Salt Lake knocked off the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Conference semifinal round and Portland sent the Seattle Sounders packing in the other semifinal.

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