The 2018 Men’s Soccer New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament held its semifinal matchup Tuesday night at Montclair State University’s own MSU Soccer Park. On their home field, the first seed Montclair State Red Hawks got a win over the fourth seed Rowan University Profs 4-3. The former punched their ticket to the championship game and eliminated the latter from the NJAC Tournament for the third straight time.
The Red Hawks’ head coach Todd Tumelty understood the pressure that comes with being the top seed in the tournament.
“I think we always know that people are gunning for us, and I think the success that we’ve had over the last few years makes teams want to really beat us,” Tumelty said. “I always tell the guys, ‘You’re everyone’s number one game,’ and it’s tough to play when you’re everyone’s number one game.'”
The game began with Rowan University getting on the offensive early, with Vincent Guzzo getting the first shot on goal of the game just 1:40 in. Rowan would control possession of the ball throughout the majority of the first 19 minutes of the game, keeping the ball away from their net and on the other side of the field. Throughout those first 19 minutes, the Profs outshot the Red Hawks 6-3, three of those coming during a minute-long offensive buzz 18 minutes into the game.
At this point in the game, everyone expected Rowan to be the team that would score first. The Red Hawks’ senior forward Rafael Terci had other ideas. While Rowan was on the offensive surge previously mentioned, the Red Hawks broke up a scoring chance and took the ball all the way downfield leading to the first goal of the game by Terci unassisted. Terci was then seen celebrating with his friend in the crowd after giving Montclair State the early 1-0 lead 19:21 into the game.
“He mishit it, I guess, and it came to me and I just touched it in,” Terci said. “I told my friend before the game if I score to make sure he’s on the fence so I just ran over to him and we celebrated together.”
It would not take long for Rowan to capitalize on the momentum they generated earlier in the game as they would tie the game up when Ryan Campbell, the leading scorer on the team and second in NJAC for goals and points, was awarded with a penalty shot at 30:14.
Campbell fired a perfect shot to the upper left corner of the net, completely out of the reach of Montclair State goalkeeper Mike Saalfrank, giving his team their first goal of the game to tie it 1-1.
Rowan’s lead did not last long. Montclair State ended up tying the game with a penalty shot of their own from Chaz Burnett. Burnett would fire his shot to the lower left corner of the net. Rowan Profs’ goalkeeper Kyle Dennis appeared to get a piece of it but not enough as it went into the net to give Montclair State the 2-1 lead 31:00 in, and ultimately into halftime.
In the second half the Red Hawks would ultimately put their stamp on this game. At 50:09, Jake Seaman would control a rebound from Dennis and fire one low and in to extend the Red Hawks lead to 3-1. Just over four minutes later, Burnett would score his second of the game off an assist from Jose Huerta to make it 4-1 Montclair State with 35:35 left.
However, the game was not over for the Rowan University Profs, not by a long shot. In the final 10 minutes of the game, Rowan would score twice. The first came from Shane Dohearty, as he touched one in that slipped past Saalfrank. Kevin Pereira was credited with the assist. The second came once again from Ryan Campbell as he scored his second of the game off an assist from Primich to cut the Red Hawks lead down to 4-3.
Rowan would get one last chance to tie it with less than a minute to go when Pereira fired a decent shot. However, it was saved by Saalfrank, who punted it away, allowing Montclair State to barely hold on for the win.
“It’s not the way we wanted it to end, and we were hoping that we’d lock down and keep our defensive unit good,” Tumelty said. “We made some mistakes, and as the season gets on and goes on more and more, if you make mistakes, they’re going to come back and cost you. So that’s something we can take away and learn from today.”
Despite the loss, the Rowan University Profs are not hanging their heads. Not only did they nearly mount a comeback against the No. 7 ranked team in the Division III, they outplayed Montclair State in several areas. The Profs outshot the Red Hawks 20-19 and dominated in corner kicks 10-2.
Rowan University Profs’ head coach Scott Baker was not discouraged by losing to the first seed in the tournament, and was proud of the way his team fought and came back.
“Montclair’s a great team, great opponent, tough to beat at home,” Baker said. “I think we fought hard. We came back.”
Baker continually mentioned how difficult it was to be the opponent in the away field.
“We came back from a tremendous defect, especially on an away field with such a tough opponent and obviously it didn’t go our way,” Baker said. “The calls didn’t go our way, and we couldn’t catch a break late in the game.”
The Red Hawks advance to the NJAC Championship Game, which will be held on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. at MSU Soccer Park. The Red Hawks will face the second seed Ramapo College Roadrunners, who defeated sixth seed William Paterson 2-1 earlier in the day, for the NJAC Championship.