Five games and zero losses for the Gothic Knights of New Jersey City University (NJCU). Eight games and zero losses for the Montclair State University men’s soccer team. After this matchup, one team was going to lose that stat, and it was not going to be the Red Hawks.
Sophomore midfielder Amer Lukovic made sure of that by notching a goal late in the second half to beat NJCU 1-0 and continue their lossless streak as they head further into conference play.
Head coach Todd Tumelty has a clear mindset heading into the rest of NJAC play for the season.
“Just stay the course,” Tumelty said. “Our course is one game at a time, and every team in the league is difficult to play against, so next game we play out of conference and then we’re back at Stockton [University].”
Fall was definitely in the air with the crisp and cold winds piercing through MSU Soccer Park. Along with it was the animosity behind the matchup, considering this was the first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchup for both sides.
A lot rides on how you start in the conference, and for either side in the first half, they were not allowing anything.
It was much easier for the Red Hawks on defense than for the Gothic Knights, since Montclair State was able to put up 14 shots in the first half compared to NJCU’s measly one shot against graduate student goalkeeper Shane Keenan. Throughout this game, four different players put up multiple shots, the most coming from Lukovic, the hero of the game, achieving four of those shots.
Lukovic pinpointed what the Red Hawks went over in the first half that helped them to turn the tide in the second half.
“We just had to be patient,” Lukovic said. “We knew the chances were coming, we could see the finish.”
Patience was definitely key when no goals were scored for almost 68 minutes of this game, and after a shot deflected off of the Gothic Knights goalkeeper, Lukovic was right there in the box to put up a number in the goal column for Montclair State, and NJCU’s demeanor changed very quickly.
Just a few minutes before this goal, to add to the three yellow cards called in the first half, and another two to begin the second half, freshman midfielder Adan Franco and NJCU’s Juan Vizcaino were both red carded after an opposing player rolling on the ground led to a bit of a scuffle between players.
And that was a constant theme of this game: grit and tension. Even the benches were starting to get themselves involved, and it felt like at any moment, a full-out brawl was going to break out. Keenan knows that cannot happen in future matchups.
“For the future, we have to stay composed and keep our cool,” Keenan said. “It started to get a little chirpy but we kept our heads and we fought out to the end.”
The fans in the stands were also getting into it, the opposing side heckling the home faithful, and some were getting into it so much that fans were even getting kicked out of the game. Keep in mind that this is the first NJAC matchup of plenty in the 2022 season. And already it feels like primetime postseason soccer.
The Gothic Knights did get four more shots on goal in the second half, and significantly more corner kicks to maybe equalize the game but the Red Hawks stayed consistent and held out to the end to put themselves at 6-0-3 on the season. Tumelty talked about how it felt to get that first conference win early on.
“It’s great because three points are what you’re looking for in NJAC matchups and those maximum points, that’s what we were able to do today,” Tumelty said.
And like Tumelty mentioned, Montclair State play out of conference against Alvernia University on Sept. 25 at 2 p.m., and then it’s back to conference play against the Stockton Ospreys on Sept. 28.