Home Sports Montclair State Advances to the Sweet 16

Montclair State Advances to the Sweet 16

by Emanuel Adebayo

On the back end of a stellar performance in a 2-0 triumph over Elmira Saturday evening, the Montclair State University Red Hawks looked to continue that momentum heading into their highly anticipated second-round matchup against Christopher Newport in this year’s NCAA tournament.

For star midfielder Amer Lukovic, the more things change, the more they stay the same. His scoring prowess from the regular season and NJAC championship continued with a hat-trick in this game, adding on to an already remarkable 2023 campaign.

Like many times this season, Montclair State got off to a fast start. Scoring a goal that was ultimately ruled offside, nevertheless giving Christopher Newport players a small glimpse of what they are capable of offensively.

It would not be all glitz and glamor for Montclair State, however, as Christopher Newport’s first major opportunity of the contest came in the sixth minute from senior forward Elton Quantanilla, whose shot only just sailed over the crossbar.

Freshman forward Salem Ellisy threatening in the box.

Freshman forward Salem Ellisy threatening in the box. Vinny Gollotto | The Montclarion

The Captains would find themselves through on goal once again just three minutes later after a cleared free kick was pinged back into the box, sailing over the Red Hawk defense. Sophomore midfielder Barry Jones latched on for what would’ve made for an amazing volley had he not missed.

Contrary to most teams this season, Christopher Newport had no issues maintaining possession in Montclair State’s half during the first 45 minutes, doing a fantastic job of making clearances and capitalizing on the fast break.

Evidently, that was the game plan for Christopher Newport heading into this matchup: to prevent crosses from Red Hawk players reaching the 18-yard box and playing off the counter-attack once they gained possession. An excellent tactical approach from Head Coach Justin Chezem.

Whether it was on the flanks or through the middle of the field, Coach Chezem trusted the elusivity and dribbling of his forwards to create chances. They kept an increased intensity as they made their way downfield with the ball.

There was a little bit of controversy late in the first half as sophomore midfielder Caleb Jones was tripped in Montclair State’s penalty box and went down with no whistles being blown for a penalty. A strike of luck for Montclair State with the game tied at 0-0 heading into the break.

Not even a minute into the second period of play and a goal was scored by Montclair State. Who else would it be? Lukovic, capitalized on the Christopher Newport goalkeeper’s error and smashed the ball into the back of the net. His 31st goal of the season.

It is as if the roles were reversed for these two teams from this point forward in the game, with the Red Hawks now capitalizing off of Christopher Newport’s loss of possession, and playing off the fast break. Oddly enough, the Captains were still the next team to come up with a goal.

It was senior midfielder Mason Field who came through for his side, as a cross to the far post slipped through and found Field’s feet to make it 1-1 with 14 minutes left in regulation. The game then went into overtime.

After a pretty stagnant first period of extra time with the score tied, it was now a matter of whose heroics would provide a breakthrough for their team.

We then headed into the second period of extra time, where Montclair State wasted no time as their first attempt at a free kick was converted by none other than Lukovic. Absolutely incredible and undeniably inevitable.

Following a beautifully delivered pass from senior midfielder Osbin Mendez, Lukovic was able to take advantage and re-establish the lead for Montclair State. It did not end there for the forward as he scored another in the 108th minute.

Showing up in the biggest moments has become regular for Lukovic, and he loves every minute of it.

“It’s a great feeling, you know,” Lukovic said. “Just helping my team out. Scoring goals is what I love to do.”

No shortage of humility from the junior.

Montclair State will now head up to New London for a contest against Connecticut College in the sectional round of the NCAA tournament.

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