St. Francis one win away from clinching a playoff spot

Gabriel Bagot's goal against Bryant put the Terriers one win away from clinching the playoffs. Photo by Rob Abruzzese.

Gabriel Bagot’s goal against Bryant put the Terriers one win away from clinching the playoffs. Photo by Rob Abruzzese.

Racing down the left side of the field, Gabriel Bagot received a well placed pass from freshman Fabian Suele and blasted a shot to the back of the net and moved the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers into a playoff spot after a 1-0 win against Bryant University at the Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sunday. The Terriers now have to win just one of their final two games to clinch a spot in the Northeast Conference playoffs.

“That was a really big game for the playoff entry,” Bagot said. “We’re still not quite in yet, we still have to win one more game, but right there winning puts us almost in and losing would have put us out. We really needed the win because for both teams that was a like a playoff game.”

The Terriers (9-4-1, 3-2-0) were tied for fifth in the NEC heading into the game and the win put them ahead of Bryant and LIU Brooklyn in the standings. Now must win one of their final two games against Fairleigh Dickinson (8-6-1, 1-2-1) and LIU Brooklyn (5-8-2, 2-2-1) to officially clinch. Last season, St. Francis beat LIU Brooklyn 2-0, but lost 2-0 to Fairleigh Dickinson.

They nearly didn’t get it either as Bryant was playing a tough defensive game. Bagot needed two perfectly executed passes from Salvatore Barone to Suele. Off of Suele’s pass he chipped it in over the goalie’s hands to take a 1-0 lead at the 56th minute.

“They make it tough to play,” Terrier’s coach Tom Giovatto said. “They really defend well and they are a hard working team, very physical. They make it tough for a team like us to play. It was a big win and a good win.”

It was Bagot’s seventh goal of the season. He and junior forward Kevin Correa, who has 11 goals, have been leading the Terriers all season.

“They’re huge, I would say they are the two best forwards in the whole conference,” Giovatto said of Bagot and Correa. “Physically they are so strong and so tough for the defenders. You can’t man mark ‘em. You need at least two guys on them and sometimes three. (Giovatto laughs) It’s pretty funny to watch three guys on them.”

When Correa or Bagot are double or triple covered it just opens up opportunities for other guys on the team and Giovatto is quick to point out that, while the rest of the team doesn’t get the same recognition, plenty of players have taken turns stepping up.

“It’s coming from all over,” Giovatto said. “In this instance a couple of freshman made some great passes to set Gabby up. The midfielders, the defenders, guys coming off the bench, everyone is contributing though. Everyone feels ownership of the team. It’s been a good year.”

Of course, one name that is quietly beginning to stand out is that of goalkeeper Jack Binks. Binks came over from the Siena Saint program where he set a school record with a 0.89 goals against average his freshman year behind five shutouts. This season he has a 0.78 GAA and five shutouts for the Terriers.

“Jack is doing great,” Bagot raved. “He’s been great. Some games when Kevin and I can’t get a goal, he’s been saving us. The entire defense has been great, but Jack has been a standout goalkeeper and really helped to lead them.”

There has been something else that has been a big help to the Terriers this season and that has been the new field on Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s dark and windy and that’s just the way they like it. At first it took some getting used to, but now they are using it to their advantage.

“Even in this game it played a role,” Bagot said of the field’s advantages. “We played against the wind, there is a lot of wind on that field, and it means more playing on the floor. Other teams come in and they’re not used to that and don’t know what to expect. We’ve already learned how to play with it.

“Usually when we play the night games because the field is not so bright you can’t see as well, but we got used to that too and most teams have a little trouble with it. So we can use that as an advantage, and the wind, because we play there every day.”

On top of the park’s physical advantages, the Terriers finally have fans coming to their home games. For years they played at the Aviator Sports Complex which is far from campus and is not easily accessible via public transportation. Now players have their family and friends coming to games for practically the first time.

“Since there was really no public transportation we never got much support,” Bagot said. “People wanted to come, but nobody could drive there. Now we always have somebody at the game — friends, family, other St. Francis teams, we’ve seen some professors come down just because they heard we were good. It’s a five minute walk. It’s a lot better. The fans try to mess with the other team a little. It’s all in good fun, but it helps having friends and family supporting.”

Things are going well for the Terriers right now and they’ll look to continue that against Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday. If they don’t, it’ll be a showdown with rival LIU Brooklyn for a playoff spot at LIU a week and a half from now.