After going into the locker room trailing 1-0, the number five ranked Montclair State University men’s soccer team struck back with four second half goals to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship. Junior midfielder Amer Lukovic found the back of the net twice in the Red Hawk’s 4-2 victory over Rowan University.
The match was personal for the Red Hawks, as 364 days before, Rowan ended Montclair State’s season by way of a Davide Caputo hat-trick in last year’s NJAC title game. The script was flipped in the highly anticipated rematch.
After conceding a goal early in the first half, the momentum swung in the favor of the home team. In the 51st minute, junior defenseman Ian Chesney sent a free kick into the penalty box, and eventually connected with senior defenseman Enir Radoncic, who headed the ball into the back of the net.
With the score now level, Montclair State wasted no time in pushing the pace of play. Just over a minute later, a shot off the foot of sophomore midfielder Reed Karson was deflected by the Prof’s goalkeeper but Lukovic quickly arrived on the scene and rocketted the ball into the goal to give the Red Hawks the go-ahead goal.
Karson was not satisfied with just recording the assist because, in the 61st minute, he scored himself after sending the ball in for a goal. Montclair State’s lead was extended to 3-1
The back line did not crack under late game pressure from the attacking Profs, limiting their offensive attack. Senior goalkeeper Shane Keenan was able to save all but one of Rowan’s shots in the second half.
Despite the Red Hawks giving up a late goal, Lukovic stepped up to seal the deal for his team. Freshman midfielder Bruno Esposito sent the ball across to the national scoring leader who found the lower left side of the goal. Lukovic’s late game goal was historic, as it put him on level with Lucas Terci’s single season program record of 28 goals. Lukovic also broke Terci’s single season points record, after collecting his 63rd off of 2 goals and an assist throughout the game.
As time expired, the Red Hawks rushed the pitch knowing that had not only won the program’s tenth NJAC Championship, but had also avenged last season’s loss to the Profs. The emotions were visible as the team lifted the trophy in front of their home fans.
The win also punched Montclair State’s ticket to the NCAA Division III men’s soccer tournament.