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The following article appeared in the Oct. 26 edition of the Press & Sun Bulletin

By Brian Moritz
Press & Sun-Bulletin

Stenta gains confidence as BU keeper

Press & Sun Bulletin Website

VESTAL -- Sometimes, the nerves come back to Jason Stenta.

They'll surface before a big game, like last weekend's contest against the University of Vermont, where the America East Conference regular-season title was at stake.

But once the game begins, the nerves subside and the confidence that has carried Stenta and the Binghamton University men's soccer team all season comes back.

"At practice, guys have been telling me what I should do and saying 'We believe in you,' " Stenta said. "The defense has been doing a great job of eliminating shots, making my job easier. I just have to take it upon myself and make the saves."

Stenta, a redshirt freshman from Chenango Valley, became BU's starting keeper in part due an injury to junior Ryan Bertoni.

Stenta has filled in spectacularly.

He has seven shutouts and a 0.68 goals against average this season. He and the Bearcats have allowed just three goals in their eight conference games -- and two of those were allowed late as BU was cruising to easy victories.

Stenta closed the regular season with three consecutive shutouts, including a 0-0 blanking of Vermont on Saturday to clinch BU's first-ever regular-season America East title.

"He has something special," BU coach Paul Marco said. "He has a gift for saving the ball. He has a knack for keeping the ball out of the goal."

Stenta, a two-time all-state soccer selection at Chenango Valley, briefly looked at the University at Buffalo, the University at Albany and SUNY-Oneonta before committing to BU.

"Eventually, we thought he'd be the guy," Marco said. "But not this soon. He has really embraced our environment and worked hard to become a better goalkeeper."

Last season, Stenta redshirted. It's something Marco likes to do with young goalkeepers. It gives them a chance to get acclimated to the college game without the pressure of having to play.

During his year off, Stenta watched Bertoni, an Owego graduate, go 12-4 with seven shutouts.

At the beginning of this season, the two competed for the starting job. They worked out together in practice, kicking balls hard at each other during drills

"They always tried to get the best out of each other," Marco said.

Bertoni won the starting position. But after opening the season 0-5-1, Marco started Stenta against Long Island University at the Dartmouth Tournament.

In that game, Stenta blew a two-goal lead by allowing three unanswered goals. But the Bearcats scored twice late to win, 4-3.

"That was the turning point for us," Stenta said.

A few games after that, Bertoni broke his nose playing in the midfield against Lehigh. That gave Stenta the starting goalkeeper's job for good.

The two are very different. Bertoni's vocal, constantly yelling directions to his back line.

"It's tough to compare the two because their personalities are different," junior Adam Chavez, a U-E graduate, said. "Stenta's a little more quiet, but he says what needs to be said when it needs to be said."

Stenta has improved as the season's gone on. He was at his best in the second half of last week's game at Albany. He made four saves in the second half to preserve BU's 1-0 victory --including a diving stop of a point-blank shot from 6 yards out with 15 minutes left.

"I was shaking after that one," Stenta said.

Now the Bearcats are preparing for next week's America East Conference tourney, looking to solidify their second NCAA Tournament berth in four years.

And the Bearcats are relying on a redshirt freshman whose early season anxiety has given way to growing confidence.

"At first, I was nervous," Stenta said. "But after that Long Island game, I got more comfortable. The guys are telling me to keep my head up and that everything will fall into place. The coaches kept telling me to go at it and keep my head in it.

"They're always pushing me to do more than I can do, and building that confidence in me."

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