Both revenge and victory were sweet for the C.W. Post—Long Island University men’s soccer team at Dowling College in Shirley on Sunday.
The Pioneers (18-1) avenged their only loss of the year in the East Coast Conference Championship, beating New York Institute of Technology, 3-2, at the neutral site. Post lost to NYIT in a 2-1 game earlier in the year and also had lost to the Bears in the conference championship last season. Post last won the conference championship in 2009. The Pioneers are currently ranked second in the country in Division II men’s soccer and earned the top seed in the eastern region of the NCAA Division II tournament, which is set to begin on Saturday. The top-seeded Pioneers earned a bye to second round competition on Sunday, November 11. They will face the winner of an opening round game between the fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts-Lowell (13-5-1) and fifth-seeded Post University (13-3-5).
Although the Pioneers earned the right to host the eastern regional games, they will have to hit the road for at least their first game on Sunday because of damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. UMass-Lowell will host Sunday’s game. If the Pioneers win on Sunday, however, they should be able to return home to host the next round of games.
C.W. Post, which has its campus in Brookville, in Nassau County, has plenty of local connections to the East End. Its head coach, Andreas Lindberg, is a Hampton Bays resident who basically lives and breathes soccer. In addition to coaching the Pioneers, Lindberg is also the director of coaching for the Southampton Soccer Club, a non-profit youth soccer organization that includes more than 150 children and provides both recreational and travel soccer team opportunities on a year-round basis. Lindberg also runs the Future Stars soccer program at the Southampton Town Recreation Center, and thanks to the new indoor turf field, the program provides clinics and camps for youth soccer players on a year-round basis.
Lindberg is in his fourth year coaching the Pioneers, and prior to coming to Post, he coached the Southampton College men’s soccer team from 2002 to 2004, before the college discontinued its sports programs.
Lindberg isn’t the only member of the Post men’s soccer program with East End roots. Freshman midfielder Matias Ruiz, a 2011 graduate of Southampton High School, has also become a key member of the team this year. Ruiz is the most decorated boys soccer player in Mariner history. In his four-year varsity career, Ruiz scored a school record 66 goals, which also put him in the top 10 all time in Suffolk County history. As a senior, he scored 24 goals, scored in 14 of his team’s 16 games and led the Mariners to the program’s first-ever undefeated league title and an overall record of 15-1-1. He was named a Newsday All-Long Island first-team player, first-team All-State, All-County and was the League VII player of the year.
Ruiz has been able to have an immediate impact with the Pioneers in his first season. He has started in five of his team’s 18 games and has played in all but one game. On Sunday, he provided the game-winning assist. With six minutes left in the game, Ruiz booted a hard shot on goal that was stopped by NYIT keeper Liam Waddy, but Waddy was unable to possess the ball and Pioneer junior Eirik Bjoernoe headed in the rebound to provide the final margin. After the win over NYIT, Ruiz had three goals and two assists on the year.
On Monday, Lindberg spoke about his team’s accomplishments and said that now that his squad has achieved its main objective of winning the ECC regular season title and conference tournament championship, it will reset it focus on bigger goals. As the number-two ranked team in the country, winning a national title is not out of the realm of possibility, although Lindberg acknowledged that getting there is never easy. The Pioneers lost to Southern New Hampshire in the Sweet 16 last year, and have been missing their best player, sophomore forward Eivind Austboe, for the last eight games due to injury. Lindberg said that Austboe is done for the year, but he’s hoping the rest of the team can continue to step up and continue the postseason run.
“We want to try to go all the way, but it’s extremely difficult,” Lindberg said. “But it could be done. We have a very deep team.”
He said that not being able to host the first round game because of Hurricane Sandy was disappointing, but said that the school was simply not in shape to host, and that local hotels wouldn’t be able to handle the influx of teams.
“It’s very upsetting for the guys who worked so hard,” he said of his team. “Hopefully we advance and then the following weekend we can host the national regionals.”