Soccer, Sports

AE title to be decided Saturday

After beginning the 2008-09 season with a 3-4-2 record, the Boston University men’s soccer team went 7-1-1 through conference play to earn itself a spot in the America East championship game against Binghamton University (12-5-3, 6-3-0 AE) tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Nickerson Field.

The top-seeded Terriers (10-5-3, 7-1-1) battled through their semifinal game Wednesday against the fourth-seeded University of Vermont. With a hard-fought 2-1 result, BU advanced to the title game for the first time since the 2004 season, while No. 3 Binghamton advanced with a thrilling victory over the No. 2 University at Albany, 1-0, in double overtime.

In 2004, the Terriers defeated Binghamton on penalty kicks to claim the championship crown.

The two BUs met earlier this season on Oct. 11 when the Terriers played to a 2-0 shutout win behind goals from junior Tom Strackhouse and freshman Stephen Knox and solid play in net from goalkeepers Hrafn Davidsson and Joe Cullaro.

The key for the Terriers tomorrow will be to break through the strong Bearcat backs and beat their goalkeeper, junior Jason Stenta. The Bearcat defense is ranked first in the conference with a 0.54 goals-against average. Stenta also leads America East with 10 shutouts and an .894 save percentage.

‘They don’t give up a lot of goals,’ BU coach Neil Roberts said of Binghamton. ‘Their backs are very disciplined and you have to break them down. You have to be patient and when you do get an opportunity, you have to be able to take advantage of it. There will be opportunities for both teams during the game and it comes down to who is capable of finishing off those opportunities.’

The Terrier offense is perfectly capable of finishing off chances, with 11 different players notching goals this season. Junior Shaun Taylor leads the way with nine goals and 21 points, followed by freshman Michael Bustamante with nine assists and 13 points. Just three points separate the next four Terriers.

The bench has made significant contributions throughout the season. Strackhouse has nine points, while seniors Jin Oh and Jon Jonsson have five apiece.

Roberts said the depth of his lineup has been key to the Terriers’ success all season long.

‘We said this before the game against Vermont ‘-‘- this game will probably be won by somebody other than a Shaun Taylor or a Michael [Bustamante], it’s going to be somebody coming off the bench and making a big contribution. We were fortunate to get it from Jon Jonsson and Jin Oh [Wednesday],’ Roberts said.

‘It’s good to have the ability to bring kids in off the bench,’ he continued. ‘What you want to do is bring energy when you make those substitutions. I think we’re finally at the point where we can do that.’

Tomorrow, the Terriers just want to continue to stay true to their style and capitalize on their chances. With their many contributors, Roberts knows the chances will come.

‘We’ve got to play our game and do what we do best,’ Roberts said. ‘They’re going to try to do what they do best. Both teams have players that are capable of making big plays. It’s just a matter of which guy is going to do it and who is going to break down defensively or make a big play offensively.’

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