For the first time all season, the Montclair State University’s men’s soccer team failed to tally a goal.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The Rowan University Profs enacted some revenge over a regular-season loss as they upset the No. 1 seeded Red Hawks in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinal matchup at Montclair State Soccer Park 1-0. The lone goal in the game came from Rowan midfielder Leo Montesinos in the fourth minute of the second half.
Senior captain Anthony Pelaez encouraged his team to stay optimistic.
“We have to look up and forget about this game, and focus on what’s to come,” Pelaez said. “Rowan is a good team and defended really well. We were just unable to finish [our opportunities].”
This game had emotions flying all over the place. Not only was it intense on the field, but off the field, the crowd was extremely into the game as well.
Montclair State dominated the first half. The Red Hawks controlled possession for most of it but struggled to penetrate through Rowan’s defense. In a game with such high stakes, it is important you capitalize, or you risk falling behind in the blink of an eye, a lesson this team would learn the hard way.
Rowan wasted no time early on in the second half. They dispossessed Montclair State on the counterattack and they were clinical this time. Rowan was able to move the ball down the right side of the field and cross it in for the first and only goal of the game.
Throughout the entire match, Rowan’s backline made it extremely difficult for the Red Hawks to get any kind of penetration towards the goal, hence the clean sheet. For fans, their struggles on offense may come as a surprise since the Red Hawks led the conference this season with 57 goals.
However, head coach Todd Tumelty wasn’t disappointed with the team’s performance.
“I thought we actually played well tonight,” Tumelty said. “Had a couple unlucky bounces tonight, and that’s just how soccer is.”
Speaking of unlucky bounces, the most egregious one was near the tail end of the game. With three minutes remaining in the game, senior defender/midfielder Ryan Catalano had a clear opportunity for a goal, but the ball hit the crossbar and bounced off the goal line.
Montclair State senior goalkeeper Shane Keenan had some amazing saves. There were a few moments where the crowd was stunned by some of the saves Keenan was able to pull off throughout the game that constantly kept the Red Hawks’ hopes of winning alive.
Freshman Ian Chesney also played a great game. Anytime an opposing player tried to move the ball past him in a one-on-one situation, the standout defender always came out on top. Chesney’s ability to boot the ball all the way to the other side of the field was a big help for Montclair State’s forwards.
Despite the loss, the Red Hawks are currently ranked in the nation at No. 11 and are No. 2 in their region, so the possibility of making it to the NCAA Tournament is still there. However, it’s a tough pill to swallow, Tumelty says, considering the Red Hawks were the favorites to win the conference all season long.
“Hopefully we get into the NCAA tournament, [but] I told the guys before we’re not going to win every game,” Tumelty said. “Hopefully, we learn from these losses and it helps us make a stronger run in the tournament.”