The Men’s soccer team wrapped their season up after a loss in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament finals. It was a disappointing end to an incredible season that saw Montclair State University finish atop the conference standings and multiple individual awards earned by members of the team.
The Red Hawks finished their season with an extraordinary record of 15-2-4, and with an 8-0-1 record in conference play. Their undefeated record in conference play earned them the number-one seed in the playoffs. Head coach Todd Tumelty described Montclair State’s superb season.
“I thought it was an excellent season,” Tumelty said. “We had a good game plan, we had a good system, and the guys were really brought into it. We didn’t give up many goals which is key to winning and going to postseason play and obviously, we fell a little short in the final game. But only losing two games all season, I’m proud of them. I wish we could have continued but obviously, it came to an end.”
The Red Hawks had high hopes entering the playoffs and were looking to redeem themselves after a disappointing loss to Rowan University in the semifinals the year prior. After defeating Rutgers University-Camden in the semifinals, Montclair State faced off against Rowan in the finals. The Red Hawks dreamed of this matchup and relished the chance of revenge.
The dream quickly turned into a nightmare as Montclair State’s season came to an abrupt end after a 3-0 loss in the finals. They also failed to be selected for the NCAA tournament. Tumelty spoke on the disappointing end, and how the team can use it to motivate them for next season.
“I think at the end of the day one thing I get disappointed in is the seniors,” Tumelty said. “The ones who lose out are the seniors. They don’t get an opportunity to play anymore and it’s over for them. The guys who are coming back, the returners, that’s all the motivation in the world. When your season ends and you feel like you should have went a little further or maybe got an extra game in or maybe NCAA tournament and you didn’t, I would think and I would hope that these guys are motivated to work in the offseason on their own and then get back out there when we have spring practices and continue to train really hard and find some success next season.”
Led by an All-American duo of sophomore midfielder Amer Lukovic and senior forward Josiah Crawford, there was no shortage of goals. Lukovic would score 11 throughout the season while Crawford contributed eight. Sophomore midfielder Owen Murphy led the team with five assists on the season.
Montclair State was also stout defensively. Led by sophomore defender Ian Chesney, the Red Hawks claimed 13 clean sheets on the season and only allowed 14 goals throughout the whole season.
The incredible individual success earned Montclair State players six selections to the all-NJAC conference teams. Graduate student goalkeeper Shane Keenan, Lukovic, Crawford, Chesney and sophomore defender Enir Radoncic all earned first-team honors. Murphy earned second-team honors and junior midfielder/forward Gene Carlo Altamirano earned an honorable mention.
The seven players to earn NJAC recognition were pivotal to the success of the team, but Tumelty is quick to point out that it’s a team game.
“I think those guys had an excellent season,” Tumelty said. “Obviously finishing first puts us in a situation to have some guys get some awards and the rest of my colleagues around the league are the ones who pick it, so it’s good to see that we’re getting good recruits in and the team’s playing well together as a group. Those guys are stepping up and starting to become leaders on the team. But at the end of the day, it’s a team game so some of the guys who didn’t get awards also made some pretty big impacts this year. So I’m happy for those guys who got the awards and the other guys will continue to strive to get better and maybe more awards will come down the way.”
Tumelty himself was recognized this year as he earned the NJAC coach of the year. His leadership and results earned recognition from his peers. Tumelty spoke on receiving the honor.
“It was great,” Tumelty said. “Obviously being coach of the year is an award your players earn for you. [Because] they do the work on the field but it’s good to see your peers respect the things you’re doing and hopefully we continue to [do things] the right way going forward,” Tumelty said.
The team will retain a strong core of players and will look to bounce back next year. This year’s experience along with the overall quality of the returning players certainly points to a bright future.