The Montclair State men’s soccer team faced their biggest challenge yet and came out victorious in dramatic fashion.
The Red Hawks faced off against Babson College, a team that made the NCAA tournament the year prior. After missing out on last year’s NCAA tournament, the Red Hawks were eager to prove themselves. The Red Hawks were not selected to the tournament last season due to strength of schedule.
Junior forward Amer Lukovic believes defeating Babson College will end up being a crucial win for the Red Hawks, especially when it comes to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Lukovic said. “Last year we didn’t get into the NCAA (tournament), it mattered who we played, and this actually is a really strong team. This will matter towards the end of the season.”
The game itself was both physical and frustrating for both teams, with a total of three yellow cards issued and many physical tackles. The game even saw a coming together of players after an incident in the Montclair State box.
Both teams failed to score until the 77th minute when Lukovic scored his New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) leading 6th goal. A powerful low driven shot that screamed past the goalkeeper. Sophomore Anthony Viola was credited with his first assist of the season.
Lukovic has been on fire to start the season and his play has been the catalyst for the teams hot start. Lukovic spoke on how he maintains his level of play.
“I take each game by game,” Lukovic said. “I try to go in and do my job the best I can, which is scoring goals.”
The Red Hawks lead vanished just five minutes later after Liam Goldstein scored his first goal of the season off a Babson College corner. However, the Red Hawks were able to maintain the same level of focus after conceding the goal.
“We kept our composure,” Lukovic said. “We believed we could get back into the game and finish it off. We ended up doing that.”
With just one minute and 16 seconds left, senior midfielder Osbin Mendez served a beautiful cross into the box. The ball missed its original target but ended up falling to senior center back Enir Radoncic who headed the ball into the back of the net to give Montclair State a 2-1 lead in the dying minutes of the game.
It was a huge goal for Montclair State and especially for Radoncic.
“As a center-back that’s huge,” Radoncic said. “Usually the attackers are the ones scoring. It’s definitely huge getting that all the way from the back and finishing the game off because I’m not used to those types of moments so it was definitely huge for me.”
The game ended shortly after and Montclair State prevailed, winning by a score of 2-1. In a true test of the team’s character, the Red Hawks showed they are willing and able to go toe-to-toe with any team they face.
“That was definitely a huge win,” Radoncic said. “We were just talking about how last season we didn’t have that character. We had a lot of underclassmen. Now, all the upperclassmen just showed we stuck through it. With a minute left, we scored. Last year I feel like that wouldn’t have happened.”
Arguably the most impressive takeaway from the game was the atmosphere at MSU soccer park. The stadium was loud and locked into the game, especially the Montclair State football team who showed up in full numbers to support their fellow athletes. Radoncic spoke on how the atmosphere off the field impacted the play on the field.
“It helped a lot,” Radoncic said. “I thanked the football guys for coming out. Even the bench stuck through it all. Once they scored a goal their bench was giving the energy so the energy was great all around.”
Montclair State then faced off against Endicott college on Sunday. After falling behind early, the Red Hawks scored four unanswered goals to eventually win 4-1. Lukovic started the scoring after he scored his 7th goal of the season.
The Red Hawks now sit with a perfect record of four wins and zero losses, but the team isn’t satisfied and has their sights set on much bigger things.
“Our goal is the NCAA championship,” Radoncic said. “That’s it. From the start it’s been that way, so that’s what we’re shooting for.”
The Red Hawks next game is against Moravian College on Sept. 13.