The College of Staten Island men’s soccer team is the middle of a season-long losing skid as it enters the annual CUNYAC Championship Tournament which kicks off today.  Still, the Dolphins (3-10-1 overall, 3-5 CUNYAC), the No. 8 seed in the eight-team single-elimination tournament, can’t help but feel optimistic in what is coined as a wide-open tournament from top-to-bottom.  CSI will travel to face Lehman College today at 4pm.  The top-seeded Lightning finished 7-1 in CUNYAC play (11-5 overall), having defeated the Dolphins on September 28, 1-0, sending CSI on its current seven-game skid.

The win-loss record may not indicate it, but the Dolphins have made strides this season under first-year Head Coach Jose-Luis Rebay.  The team has scored 22 goals this season, already an improvement over the 15 they scored in 17 games a season ago, and also shed their goals allowed from 46 to 34.  The team boasts a full roster, and although injuries have sidelined players like Alfred Yeboah and Giovanni Cortese for stretches this season, the Dolphins have still battled, suffering some painful losses along the way which easily could have been wins, placing the Dolphins much higher in the standings.

CSI ripped off three-straight wins in CUNYAC play to begin their season, the first time the team started 3-0 in conference play since 2004.  The run included a gritty, 1-0, win over York College, the conference’s No. 2 seed, and a 7-1 pounding of No. 6 City College of New York, CSI’s only home win of the season.  Then, the matchup with Lehman sent the Dolphins downhill.  In a very even game with few scoring chances, Lehman finally garnered a lead via a Momar Thiam penalty kick at 74:21.  CSI proceeded to drop their next four CUNYAC contests, three by a single goal, two in double overtime, and another in the final five minutes of the contest against Hunter College.

Despite the final 3-5 standing, the Dolphins have shown competitiveness and the ability to contest for 90+ minutes.  The freshman-senior duo of Alfonso Casteneda and Dogan Altunsoy have paced the Dolphins for 11 goals and four assists, while Michelle Kissi, a late-addition who has played in just 9 games, is tied for the team lead with a trio of assists.  Junior Ahmed El-Ghareib has played in all but 15 minutes in the past two seasons between the pipes and is currently ranked 22nd in the nation in saves per game, with 7.4.  The numbers give the Dolphins hope as it enters the postseason field.

Lehman College, CSI’s quarterfinal opponent, suffered only a single loss this season, a 2-1 setback to Baruch College in their CUNYAC opener.  The team has proceeded to win seven-straight CUNYAC contests, including two in a span of 10 days to both York and CCNY.

The winner of today’s quarterfinal game will advance to the CUNYAC Championship Semifinals on Saturday, October 29, at 11am at the College of Staten Island.  The winner of Lehman-CSI will take on the winner of No. 4 John Jay College and No. 5 Hunter College, which play later this evening at the Metropolitan Oval in Queens at 8pm.  In other quarterfinal action, No. 2 York College takes on No. 7 Medgar Evers College (3:30pm @ York), while No. 3 Baruch College takes on No. 6 CCNY (6pm @ Met Oval).