The Montclair State University Red Hawks began their journey throughout the 2018 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s soccer championship tournament this past weekend with a pair of hard-fought, shootout victories.
As the host of the first and second rounds of the tournament, all three games were played at MSU Soccer Park. The Red Hawks defeated the Colby College Mules in penalty kicks 4-3 on Saturday before winning over the New York University (NYU) Violets on Sunday with 5-4 in penalty kicks.
Round one began with both teams getting prime scoring opportunities. Montclair State got the ball right in front of the net but were unable to get a shot off the attempt. The Mules then got it in front of their net off a corner kick from Asa Berolzheimer, but the shot was blocked.
During 15:55 into the game, the Mules got on the board first when Lucas Pereira fired a perfect laser shot to the upper left corner of the net. Red Hawks goalkeeper Mike Saalfrank had no chance to save it, and the Mules took the early 1-0 lead.
Ever since the goal, the Red Hawks offense – second in scoring the entire Division III – began to catch fire but to no avail. Throughout the rest of the first half and into the beginning of the second half, Montclair State outshot the Mules 20 shots to one. Despite this offensive surge, the Red Hawks just couldn’t finish the scoring opportunities they were getting.
The biggest miss was when Collin Mulligan fired a shot that barely hit the crossbar. Rafael Terci crashed the net hoping to bury it, but Mules goalkeeper Dan Carlson covered it up in time. Despite the frustration, Montclair State head coach Todd Tumelty told his team not to get frustrated.
“We watch them play a lot, and I told the guys, ‘If we don’t get frustrated, we’ll win,'” Tumelty said. “‘If we don’t get frustrated and don’t start yelling at the referee and we just stay on course, we’ll finally get one.’ It took us until five minutes left in the game to get one but we got one.”
Eventually, with 5:48 left in the game, the Red Hawks got the goal they needed to save their season. Anthony Pelaez kicked a long pass to Chaz Burnett, who broke a couple of tackles then fired a low shot right past Carlson for the game tying goal. Pelez was credited with the assist as the Red Hawks tied it 1-1 and ultimately sent the game to overtime.
Throughout overtime, the Mules had multiple chances to win the game. At the end of the first overtime, in fact, Mules scored what looked to be the game winner, but the play was offsides so the goal was waved off.
In the second overtime, the Mules caught Saalfrank out of position and had an open net to shoot on. However, Kevin Simek blocked the shot and the game eventually went to the shootout. The shootout was tied 3-3 before the third round when Simek made a shot to make it 4-3. Saalfrank then came up big when he made two straight saves to give his team the win.
Unlike round one, the Red Hawks got on the board first in round two’s game against the New York University Violets, after being on the receiving end of a hard foul in front of the net. The Red Hawks were awarded with a penalty kick, and Rafael Terci buried it to give his team the 1-0 lead 12:25 into the first half.
Ever since the Montclair State goal, NYU got key opportunities to tie it but couldn’t capitalize. Robert Schellow had a clear path to the net, but Saalfrank got there in time for the save. Oliver Klaban received a pass in front of the net but failed to control it and Saalfrank got there in time again. Then, at the end of the first half, a shot from Mattaeo Russo deflected off a Red Hawk defender and awkwardly rolled in for the NYU goal. The goal was credited to Russo and the game was tied 1-1 with 34 seconds left in the half.
Throughout the rest of the game and in both overtimes, Montclair State got multiple opportunities to score the game winner. In fact, it looked like they did just that in the second half when Terci fought through a skirmish in front of the net and got the ball through into the net for what looked to be a sure goal. However, when the referees discussed it, they concluded that the play was offsides and the goal was waved off.
Throughout 65 minutes of play, no goal was scored and the game remained tied at 1-1, sending the Red Hawks into their second straight shootout. In the shootout, Saalfrank came up big again with a save on Schellow, and the Red Hawks won in 5-4.
“[Penalty kicks] for me honestly [are] a very personal thing,” Saalfrank said. “I’ve ended my high school career and a couple other things on [penalty kicks]. So it feels good to get that for myself and for our team.”
Saalfrank also expressed how proud of the team he was.
“They battled it out all game, both games and huge couple of goal clearances from big defensive plays,” Saalfrank said. “I’m just back here keeping order trying to do my job too.”
With both wins, the Red Hawks advance to the Sweet 16 of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NCAA) men’s soccer tournament. Montclair State will head to Medford, Massachusetts to face a familiar opponent in the Ramapo College Roadrunners on Saturday, who the Red Hawks previously defeated 5-0 in the NCAA championship.
The winner will advance to the Elite Eight to face the winner of Tufts University and Amherst College with a birth to the Final Four on the line.