Montclair State University has been around for over a century; 113 years to be exact. The incoming freshman class is the biggest the school has ever seen, with 3,619 starting their college journey as a Red Hawk, a 16% increase from last year’s class.
Of those freshmen, a few of them are playing their hearts out for the Montclair State men’s soccer team. Justin Goldberg, junior midfielder and second-team all-conference last season, knows the squad is set for
years to come thanks to this stellar freshman play this season.
“You see this in our recruiting classes and all of these kids that come to our camps,” Goldberg said. “In just our first game, we had four or five freshman start. The young talent is not going to stop coming through, certainly not in the next couple years.”
Goldberg is not wrong. Montclair State has started off the season with an 8-1-1 record thus far and is considered to be one of the top contenders for the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship. Their first NJAC matchup against Rutgers-Camden this season was a dominant shutout win along with two goals.
Who assisted on the second goal of this game? Ian Chesney, one of the key freshmen on this team.
Two goals, three assists — one of which ended up being a game-winning goal against Rutgers-Camden — and only seven shots on goals, which shows how Chesney’s youth is converted into accuracy. He has even won an NJAC honor already, winning Rookie of the Week earlier this season. Chesney is proud of what his team has been able to do as well.
“It’s definitely awesome. All the hard work that we put in is being shown [out on the field] and it’s cool to see,” he said. “I am definitely honored to receive those awards.”
How could you not love being in Chesney’s shoes as a freshman? But in sports, and quite literally, there is no “I” in team. And while Shaquille O’Neal said there is a “me” in “team,” Chesney has had a lot of guidance and wisdom from his coaches and his teammates and is ultimately grateful for it all.
“It has been the coolest thing ever,” Chesney said. “Meeting all of the guys and becoming a family with the boys on the squad, and being coached by a great coaching staff; it has been a great experience so far.”
One of Chesney’s goals against DeSales University was not a fastbreak goal by himself. The player who gave him the perfect opportunity was none other than another star freshman, Amer Lukovic. He has been shining the brightest out of everyone on the team, which is a cause for concern for any opponent that comes the Red Hawks’ way.
Nine goals. Four assists. 22 points overall, and 19 shots on goal. Lukovic has also earned multiple NJAC honors, including Offensive Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week just like his teammate, Chesney. He was even recognized by the school as Athlete of the Week. Amer has so much support on this team, he has trouble picking who has been the most helpful to him so far.
“There are a lot of different influential people on our team,” Lukovic said. “The coaches and the captains really push me to perform my best every game. The pregame talks and everybody getting hyped up really helps boost my ability to play.”
Head coach Todd Tumelty, in his 11th season with the Red Hawks, recognizes the premier talent needed to be successful in the NJAC for men’s soccer. And he knows that Lukovic and Chesney have what it takes to continue their hot streak.
“It’s hard to start as a freshman here at Montclair State. The level of talent is that good,” Tumelty said. “And you are an 18 [or] 19-year-old kid going up against 22-year-old men. I commend [Lukovic and Chesney] for putting in the work in the offseason. When you see freshmen out on the field, that means your program is moving in the right direction.”
Lukovic and Chesney are just some of the freshmen helping to propel the men’s soccer squad to early glory so far this season. Midfielder Owen Murphy has been a regular starter for this team since the beginning of the season and has already contributed one goal and an assist. Forward Reed Karsen has been one of the leading scorers on this team with four goals.
And with conference play soon approaching on the schedule, this unit’s skills will be put to the test. But with the support group they have alongside them, it will take a lot to bring down the next generation of Red Hawks on this team.