After an amazing finish to their season just to get into the playoffs, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds failed at their bid to win a third consecutive Northeast Conference title when they lost 1-0 to St. Francis University in the NEC title game in Pennsylvania on Sunday.
It was a tough, defensive game for the most part as both teams were scoreless through the first half. It wasn’t until Tesa McKibben, the four-time NEC Player of the Year, scored her 20th goal of the year during the 71st minute to break up the shutout. That was the only goal that keeper Jess Sexton allowed on seven shots.
The Blackbirds’ best chance came during the 21st minute when freshman Asha Mohiddin intercepted a pass and found Jenn Peters with a pass, but St. Francis’ goalkeeper Abbey Collins broke up the play after a give-and-go with Jen Spicer. They had a couple other chances, but as the game went on things just got tougher for the Blackbirds as they were held to just one shot in the second half.
Blackbirds were hardly happy just to be there, but it took an amazing finish to their season just to reach the playoffs. After a 2-9-1 start to the season, they finished with five wins in their final six matches just to sneak in to the tournament. Then they needed two overtimes and a goal from Shino Kunisawa in the 107th minute to get past Fairleigh Dickinson to reach the finals.
“When we weren’t winning, everybody was telling us it was a rebuilding year,” head coach Tracey Bartholomew said earlier this month. “But we just kept telling the girls, ‘We’re not rebuilding, we’re reloading. We have the talent to get back to the NEC Championship.’”
This is certainly not the end of the run for the Blackbirds though. They have some tough obstacles ahead of them in replacing both Sexton and Kunisawa, who are both graduating, but all but four players are expected to return next season.