The latest edition in the rivalry between the Montclair State University Red Hawks and the Rowan University Profs went down this Saturday at MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field. This time, the Montclair State men’s soccer team would get the last laugh as they defeated Rowan at home by a final score of 1-0.
It was the second New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchup of the season for both teams. Montclair State Red Hawks’ head coach Todd Tumelty felt good about his team’s hard fought victory over a conference rival that was the favorite to finish first in the NJAC conference.
“It’s good and they’re a good side,” Tumelty said, following his team’s victory. “They were picked to finish first. It’s good for us to get the three points that we needed.”
The game began with Rowan getting some momentum both offensively and defensively, perfectly setting up a wall to block a free kick from Red Hawks’ senior midfielder Kevin Simek. They had the biggest scoring opportunity of the first half when a shot from Profs’ senior forward Shane Doherty barely sailed over the net.
Rowan would only get offense in the first half, and Montclair State would then be on the offensive for the majority of the half. However, Rowan senior goalkeeper Kyle Dennis would keep them in the game, making multiple big saves. Dennis made a sliding save to deny a close, grounder shot from Montclair State senior forward Rafael Terci and then made another impressive save on a shot from freshman midfielder Michael Knapp. Rowan University Profs’ head coach Scott Baker was happy with the performance from his goaltender.
“I thought [Knapp] made some good saves and kept us in,” Baker said. “That one at the end could’ve easily been 2-0, and he kept his focus and kept it at least at one.”
Despite the missed opportunities, Montclair State would still continue to dominate Rowan University in possession of the ball and create shots for the rest of the first half and early on in the second half. Throughout the first 56 minutes of the game, the Red Hawks dominated the Profs in total shots (13-4) and shots on goal (3-0). However, the game would still remain scoreless more than halfway throughout the second half.
“We knew that this year was going to be difficult for us,” Tumelty said. “In the past, we’ve had a lot of success scoring goals.”
Tumelty believes in the team but needs them to gain more experience with one another.
“We knew that we have two very good forwards, but we just have to get them more experience playing together and working together,” Tumelty said. “If they do that, the goals will come.”
Everyone at MSU Soccer park knew that with the lack of scoring, it was going to be one of those games where the first team to get on the board would win. Sixty six minutes in, Montclair State finally broke the silence as Knapp fired a shot that was at first saved by Dennis. However, junior forward Nixon Soglo would get to the rebound and with some impressive dribbling, perfectly placed a shot to the bottom left corner of the net. The shot was out of the reach of Dennis and in for Soglo’s first goal of the season, giving Montclair State the 1-0 lead.
However, Montclair State’s goal did not drain the game of any excitement. Rowan University would begin creating some big chances to tie the game. A shot from Doherty ended up barely going to the left of the net. Biggest of all, on Rowan’s last shot of the game, senior midfielder Vincent Guzzo kicked one that appeared to be on its way in but ultimately hit the crossbar for a no-goal call, allowing Montclair State to hold on and win. Rowan University head coach Baker was frustrated with his team’s lack of effort in the 18-yard box.
“You gotta get through the ball in the 18s,” Baker said. “We gotta get through tackles that don’t let up goals.”
Baker expressed what strategy the team didn’t use that led to their loss.
“You gotta get though tackles that cause goals in the most critical areas, which is the 18s,” Baker said. “We didn’t do that today, and we don’t deserve to win.”
The Montclair State Red Hawks improve to 8-1-1 on the season and 2-0-0 in the NJAC standings. They will go on the road this week for a matchup with William Paterson on Wednesday, Sept. 26, then go on the road again to face Rutgers-Newark on Saturday, Sept. 29.