Montclair State University Soccer Park hosted the Red Hawks men’s soccer team’s final game of the 2019 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) regular season. The Red Hawks took home field one final time before the tournament, to face the Kean University Cougars. It was a huge game for Montclair State in terms of their potential seeding in the playoffs.
With a win, the Red Hawks would clinch the number two seed and a first round bye in the upcoming NJAC men’s soccer championship playoffs. With a loss and a victory over Rutgers-Camden, the Red Hawks would fall to the number three seed, and have to play a first round matchup.
Before the game, the Red Hawks hosted senior night, honoring the players on the team that would be leaving the program at season’s end. This year, Montclair State would honor 13 total graduating seniors. Red Hawks head coach Todd Tumelty talked about how special it was to honor so many seniors.
“It’s awesome, obviously graduation is the key for this program,” Tumelty said. “We want the kids to graduate and get degrees, and to have 13 guys stick with the program for this long, it’s a credit to some of the guys on the team and a credit to just a good bunch of seniors who stayed with it the whole way.”
Tumelty continued to talk about how this is one of the biggest classes he had.
“I’m happy for them. It’s one of the biggest classes I’ve ever had,” Tumelty said. “Looking forward to having some other big ones.”
The first half of the game was a weird one for both teams from a shooting perspective. The Cougars outshot the Red Hawks 8-6 and led 5-3 in corner kicks in the first 45 minutes of the game. However, of the six Montclair State shots, five of them were on goal compared to Kean’s two shots on goal.
With four minutes left in the first half, Montclair State struck first when sophomore midfielder Brent Llewellyn played a headbutt from senior defender Chris Bobev, firing it to the left of Kean sophomore goalkeeper Dillon Konzelmann, for his first goal of the season. Bobev was credited with the assist and the Red Hawks took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Kean would still lead Montclair State in the shot department, outshooting the Red Hawks 10-5 to finish the game with 18 total shots to the Red Hawks’ 11. In the last 14 minutes of the game, Kean went on a furious rally, outshooting Montclair State 7-1, with seven unanswered shots.
Montclair State freshman goalkeeper Dean DePinto came up big for his team during this stretch, making three key saves to protect the Red Hawks lead. Thanks to the Red Hawks’ great goalkeeping and overall defensive play in front of the net, they were able to hold off the Cougars and lock down a 1-0 victory, clinching the number two seed in the NJAC tournament and a first round bye.
“For us the bye week is key,” Tumelty said. “We’re banged up. We have some injuries so we’re gonna try [and] rest our guys a little bit and get some rehab in and then once the rehab is in, then we’re going to have the opportunity to get back playing again.”
Montclair State finished the regular season with a 14-4-1 overall record and a 6-2-1 NJAC record. Their hopes are high going into the NJAC tournament.