The Montclair State men’s soccer were able to fend off Stockton University Ospreys in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinals and advance to the NJAC finals.
MSU Soccer Park played host to the 2019 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) men’s soccer semifinal round on Wednesday, Nov. 6th. Stockton advanced to the semifinal after defeating Rutgers-Camden in the first round. The two-seeded Montclair State Red Hawks took on the six-seeded Stockton University Ospreys.
Despite the difference in the seeding, Montclair State men’s soccer head coach Todd Tumelty would not let his players fall into that trap.
“Anyone in this conference can beat anybody on any given day,” Coach Tumelty said. “Whether you’re the six or the one. The one [Ramapo College] just got upset. Anyone can beat anyone, so if you don’t come out and play hard, you’re going to get beat.”
The game began with neither team spending much time in each others zone and a few shots on the goal. Stockton junior forward Dante Montesinos had the first two shots for his team. The second of which was right in front of the net, but missed.
Later on in the half, Stockton senior midfielder Christian Bik caused a turnover in the Montclair State zone. Red Hawks junior goalkeeper Michael Meija made an impressive dive save to keep the game scoreless. Throughout the first 42 minutes of action, Stockton outshot Montclair State 4-3.
Senior forward Nixon Soglo came close to giving Montclair State the first goal of the game with less than six minutes left in the half, but was denied by the Stockton defense. Soglo would get another chance with two minutes left in the half.
Soglo would not come up short this time, as he got a header to the low left side and past Stockton junior goalkeeper Dino Gromitsaris. Senior defender Devaughn Foster and sophomore midfielder Brent Llewellyn were credited with assists as Montclair State took a 1-0 lead.
“I just came out wanting to play for my teammates,” Soglo said. “I wanted to get a goal. I haven’t scored in the past couple of games. I just wanted to get a goal and just get the ball rolling again. I’m happy I could help my team today.”
However, the Ospreys would waste no time responding, as with just over two minutes left in the half, they drove down the field and into the Red Hawks zone. With one minute left in the half, junior forward Darnell Lopez scored off an assist from junior midfielder Ervin Gjeli as Stockton took the goal right back, tying the score 1-1 into halftime.
“We continue to struggle in set pieces,” Coach Tumelty said. “So I told them to limit our sets and try not to give them opportunities where they can kind of set up and go at our goal. So hopefully we can do that versus Rowan.”
Less than 20 minutes into the second half, Montclair State would take the lead when a scramble broke out in front of the net. Freshman forward Oscar Sanchez broke through the tackles to put the Red Hawks back on top. Senior forward Jose Huerta was credited with the assist as Montclair State took a 2-1 lead.
However, the Ospreys would not quietly go into the sunset as they outshot the Red Hawks 6-2 in the final 25 minutes of the game. Montesinos fired back-to-back shots in the span of nine seconds. The first was blocked in front and the second went wide. Stockton senior back Larry Abanilla had the best chance when he fired a shot that barley hit the crossbar.
Montclair State was able to hold on for a 2-1 win in the NJAC Semifinals, clinching their third trip to the NJAC championship match in the past four years.
The Red Hawks went on beat Rowan University in the NJAC finals to become NJAC champions Saturday.