LIU Post has the top- ranked men's soccer team in NCAA Division II, but until yesterday's game with fifth ranked UMass-Lowell, the Pioneers were not sure just how deserving they were of that ranking.

After a 3-0 victory over Lowell (10-1-1), there are no lingering doubts.

"It shows we can play among the best and we belong up there,'' junior Eirik Bjoernoe said. "It was a great acknowledgement for us that we actually belong up there. We have to keep working hard, and stay composed, don't get [distracted] by this.''

Soccer has taken center stage at Post this fall, with the women's team (10-1-1) ranked first in the region and seventh in the nation. The men have won a school record 12 straight games to start the season. Bjoernoe opened the scoring when he beat Lowell goalkeeper Christopher Maierle (Friends Academy) on a penalty kick at 14:58 of the first half. "I missed one early in the season,'' he said. "I was very happy getting the opportunity for another one and grateful for scoring.''

Post outshot Lowell, 12-4, in the first half and 18-9 for the game, but did not get an insurance goal until Cemil Turan, on a cross from Andreas Olson, scored on a 15-yarder at 73:37. Jonathon Watkin closed the scoring on a 10-yarder into the lower right corner at 87:51.

"Now we almost clinched a spot hosting the NCAA's here and that's going to be a big deal having the home crowd behind us,'' Turan said. "It was one of the biggest games of the year and we still have more to come.''

Post went to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1993, but has bigger aspirations this season.

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"I learned we probably are one of eight to ten teams that have a shot to win the national championship,'' coach Andreas Lindberg said. "I'm not sure I knew that before today. This is the first [opponent] that had a lot of wins. ''

Post has played the last five games without striker Eivind Austboe, who Turan tied for the team lead in goals with eight. He is unlikely to return with concussion-like symptoms. "Eivind scored on every chance he got,'' Bjoernoe said. "Now we have to create more chances so we can score more goals. We had to rise for the challenge when you lose one of your best players.''