The College of Staten Island men’s soccer roller-coaster season is coming down the home stretch, and the Dolphins will have redemption in mind when they take the field for the annual City University of New York Athletic Conference Postseason Tournament, which is set to begin on Wednesday and extend through the first week in November. A trip to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament is on the line, and the top-seeded Dolphins want to be part of the mix.
CSI is in a familiar place. For the second year in a row they are the tourney’s No. 1 seed with an impressive regular season conference record of 6-1-1 to boast. The Dolphins earned a first round home game again, but last year their run was halted in semifinal play at Brooklyn College to eventual champion Baruch College. This year, CSI is hoping to turn the tide. They host Medgar Evers on Wednesday to start the postseason at the CSI Soccer Complex at 3pm. A win there and CSI will face the winner of Baruch or John Jay College in the semifinals. Baruch has eliminated the Dolphins the last three years in the postseason, so the potential showdown could be in the works if seeding hold true.
“We’re excited,” said head coach John Tardy. “We have big aspirations and we’ve been looking forward to this point of the season. We also know that we need to take things one game at a time. All of our games this season within the conference have been close and in the postseason no one hands you a win. It’s a chance for us to work hard, capitalize on opportunities, and show everyone what we are capable of.”
The competition in the postseason will be heated, but Tardy is confident that his troops can handle the challenge. CSI has gotten balanced scoring this season, led by Marcin Klim’s seven tallies. Rookies Tarek Emam and Philip Lefkowitz have tallied four goals apiece while Brayan Evo and Nicholas Bacarella have punched in a trio each. Defensively, the Dolphins have all-star considerations Ruben Diaz, Jacob Szumanski, and Eli Papraniku patrolling the back line, Nermin Kurtesi, Mohamed Ndao and Emmanuel Agboola working the midfield and the three-headed monster of Kyle Coffey, John Gioeli, and Daniel Raffo between the pipes. When working fluidly, the combos have been hard to stop this season.
“Once we get everyone back (CSI has a pair of players suspended for quarterfinal and semifinal play), I think this is definitely the most talented team we’ve had and our depth is something we have been able to use to our advantage this season,” Tardy said. “Most of all we have a hard working team and you can see it translate on the field. No one player stands out and we are getting contributions from everyone, and that’s what good teams need, especially in big games.”
Tardy believes he has had the talent to nab CSI’s postseason championship since 1998 before, but in order to win a title the team will have to simply focus on the task at hand and play the game in small chunks and with simple fundamentals in mind, something it came up short of in the past.
“I think we’ve always worked hard at preparing ourselves and making sure we were ready for play in the past, but as a younger team we let our emotions get the better of us the past couple of years when we got to this stage of the season,” the coach explained, noting the past two seasons when CSI was flagged with two red cards in each of its last two semifinal matches, leaving them with less personnel on the field, and with losses on the scoreboard. “We are carrying ourselves with a lot more maturity and leadership this year, and we’ve learned from some of our mistakes. As far as gameplay, we just need to play sharp in front of the net and make the most of opportunities.”
The benefits of a first-round home game will help. The Dolphins are looking for some confidence after back-to-back losses on the road to end the season (to Hunter and Bard College). They defeated quarterfinal foe Medgar Evers College, 8-0, during the regular season. CSI knows all about streaks. They started the season 0-6, then followed with a 9-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1), their longest since 1984, before dropping their last two games. Tardy would like to swing the pendulum back in a positive direction, and it will have to start with the CUNYAC Tournament.
“More than streaky play I think it just comes down to simple execution,” the coach exacted. “Many of the games we lost this season we out-shot our opponents or we had many more quality chances, we just simply failed to execute on some chances. When you get to the postseason, you may only get one or two chances and you have to find a way to finish a play strong because if you don’t, the other teams will. We have to make sure we defend well and then execute in front of goal. It sounds simple but the team that does that best usually ends up winning.”
In the CUNYAC’s other Wednesday quarterfinal tilts, No. 2 Brooklyn College will host No. 7 Lehman College, while No. 3 City College of New York will host No. 6 Hunter College. That leaves No. 4 Baruch, the defending champs, to tackle No. 5 John Jay College. The quarterfinal winners will face off in Semifinal play on October 31 at Brooklyn College, beginning at 2pm. The CUNYAC Final is scheduled for the following Saturday, November 7, at 4:30pm, also at Brooklyn College. Tickets are free for all legs of the tournament, but fans will need tickets for entry for the semifinal and final at Brooklyn. Tickets are available HERE.