Feature article on Ryan Bertoni from the Press & Sun Bulletin (Sept. 21)

Press & Sun Bulletin Website

By Brian Moritz
Staff Writer
Press & Sun Bulletin

Ryan Bertoni sees it all.

The four defenders who are spaced in a fluid U formation and move as one as the ball crosses the field. The forwards as they move to spots along the sideline at midfield. The other team -- in this case, Binghamton University teammates wearing orange practice jerseys -- trying to create a turnover.

This is why Bertoni has always liked playing goalkeeper. The Owego native and Binghamton sophomore likes seeing the whole game at once, a view no one but the opposing goalie shares.

"Everything is in front of me," Bertoni said.

Bertoni, who led Owego Free Academy to a state title as a senior, is in his first season as BU's starting goalkeeper. He took over the job held the past two seasons by Stefan Gonet, who led the Bearcats into the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago and was featured in Sports Illustrated.

In his first month on the job, Bertoni has recorded five shutouts in eight games and has allowed just three goals. Even after a 1-0 loss at Lehigh last week, the Bearcats (6-1-1) are No. 21 in this week's National College Soccer Association of America poll.

On Tuesday, Bertoni made three saves in a 3-0 home victory over Oneonta State.

Bertoni has slipped into his role so smoothly, the transition has been so seamless, that it's easy to forget he's in his first year as a starter.

"It's his first season of college soccer (as a starter), and you'd never know it," said Graham Munro, BU's senior defender and two-time defending America East defensive player of the year. "He's been great, especially in some big games."

Bertoni grew up playing soccer with his sister Brianna (a goalkeeper at Wilkes College). He first played goal when he was 13, pretty much because he was the tallest player on his team.

"I was the only one who could touch the crossbar," said Bertoni, who's now 6-foot-3.

He played well enough at Owego, where he was a first-team all-state selection after leading the Indians to the Class B title in 2002. He looked at the University at Buffalo as well as several schools in South Carolina. But he liked the academic reputation of Binghamton (He's an English major with plans of attending law school) and the potential of the soccer program.

BU coach Paul Marco was equally impressed with Bertoni.

"From the first 3, 4 yards from the goal, he's very quick," Marco said. "His height and athleticism allow him to cover a lot of ground."

Bertoni hoped to start right away. Two months before training camp, though, he started hearing rumors that another goalkeeper was coming.

Sure enough, Gonet -- a Scotsman who had signed with BU a year earlier -- was coming to campus. Gonet won the starting job.

The thought of transferring crossed his mind, but Bertoni liked the school and the program and knew he was part of something special.

Two years ago, the Bearcats won the America East championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Gonet recorded 16 shutouts in 22 games and was featured in SI's Faces in the Crowd. Last season, the Bearcats advanced to the conference title game, losing to Boston University on penalty kicks.

As Gonet's back-up, Bertoni, who redshirted the 2003 season, learned how to play the game at the college level.

A natural athlete with quick hands, Bertoni had to learn how to organize his team's defense. He had to figure out how to communicate with his back line, telling them where to go and what play to make. He had to learn how to see the game.

Bertoni soaked up the knowledge from Gonet, a skilled tactician, during games, practices and film sessions.

"He helped me a ton," Bertoni said. "I'm thankful for that."

This past February, everything changed. Gonet, who had a year of eligibility left, abruptly left the program and the school to return home.

Bertoni played well during the spring exhibition system and in preseason training, earning the starting gig Phil Grommet and Jason Stenta, a freshman from Chenango Valley. In his first month, Bertoni has thrived, and the Bearcats have barely missed a beat. The Bearcats won five consecutive games, their longest win streak since the program switched to Division I five years ago.

The defense in front of him has helped. Three starters -- Munro, Darius Ravangard and Ryan Pierce -- are seniors. Adam Chavez, a sophomore, started last season and was a high-school All-American at Union-Endicott.

Bertoni's been great when he needs to be. Against Duquesne at the St. Bonaventure Invitational a few weeks ago, Bertoni made six second-half saves to seal a 1-0 victory.

"I love the thrill of making a big save," Bertoni said. "It's as rewarding for me as a field player getting a goal."


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