2015 is a big year for the Rowan men’s soccer team. The team’s 12 wins through 16 games are the most since 2012, when the team made it to the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament finals before falling to Rutgers-Camden.
Senior captain Shane Kohler is the only player from that 12-8-2 team is still in the program, but his presence and play on the field has been paying dividends for the team this season.
“You can’t put it into words,” head coach Scott Baker said. “That experience is critical in conference games and the tournament. The experience he brings helps us tremendously and will help us tremendously as we go on.”
Along with Rowan, Kohler was considering playing at Montclair State, Lynchburg College, and a few smaller Division I schools.
Kohler became a member of the Rowan men’s soccer team back in 2011 when Dan Gilmore was still coaching the Profs and saw significant playing time and success.
As a freshman, Kohler appeared in 18 games and was third on the team with 12 points on five goals and two assists.
The 2011 season ended in the NJAC tournament for the team, but they returned the next season.
In that 2012 season, Kohler saw action in 21 games while starting 20, but saw his production slide, only tallying five points on two goals and one assist.
During a 10-9 season in 2013, Kohler saw his best season statistically, totaling 15 points on six goals and three assists. Despite his success that season, the team could only muster three conference wins, and did not qualify for the conference tournament.
Baker served as an assistant coach to Gilmore from 2012 to 2013 and saw Kohler as a sophomore and a junior.
“He had great leadership qualities as a sophomore,” Baker said. “In a game we were losing and kind of falling apart, Shane was one of the most upset players and held us together as a team”
2014 was supposed to be Kohler’s senior campaign with the team. Instead of playing out his final season with the other players that came into the program with him, Kohler was sidelined for the season after ankle surgery.
“It was tough. The toughest part was not being able to finish what I had started with the players I came here with. They were some of my best friends. Not being able to play with them hurt, but it was tough knowing that I could’ve helped in games or practices,” Kohler said. “I do think it helped me as a player. I sat back and watched games and understood more from being a student of the game for an entire year.”
The 2014 season also marked a coaching change for the Profs. Baker was announced as the third coach in Rowan men’s soccer history, replacing Gilmore and bringing in a different method of coaching.
“They’re completely opposite. Coach Scott is laid back and he’s all about being disciplined; No cursing or talking to the ref, focus on ourselves. He connects with the players so well,” Kohler said. “Gilmore was like no one I ever played for before. He was loud and very intense, but he was the most passionate guy I have ever played for. The only thing that mattered was winning. They come across differently, but they had the main goal of us being the best we can be on and off the field. Win on the field, but be a student athlete first and do well in the classroom.”
That season saw a young team shoot out to a 7-4 start before faltering to a 3-5 record down the stretch.
Coming back off of injury, Kohler was more motivated.
“It made me hungrier. I’m only going to be here for one more semester,” Kohler said. “I stayed here over the summer to train so I could give it my all for the whole season.”
So far this season he has done just that.
Through 16 games, Kohler is fourth on the team with 13 points, with four goals and five assists. He’s also one of the three captains in the Profs’ midfield. Despite his production this year, Kohler sees himself as more of a leader for the 2015 team, providing information about the NJAC and other big games for the underclassmen, who Kohler says “highlight the team.”
“Last year was difficult for him,” Baker said. “He’s a competitor and he wants to be out there. I think he learned a lot and I think it shows in his level of play this year.”
Talent wise, Kohler says that this is the best team that he’s ever played on. This is also the team with the most Shane’s that Kohler has been on. Junior Shane Patterson and freshman Shane Doherty are key pieces in the success of the 2015 team.
“There are certain times coach will be yelling “Shane,” and two or three of us will look over confused pointing at each other. I always joke around saying that I’m the real Shane because I’m the oldest and that the other guys are known by their last names. We always do stuff together whether it’s finishing a run or walking out to the field. We tell Scott we just have to recruit more Shane’s because that’s where the talents at.”
The brown and gold currently sit at sixth place in the NJAC at 3-3, and if that stays true for the rest of the season, they would qualify for the conference tournament once again. Kohler, who has the most experience in the tournament, has been telling the team to take it one game at a time despite the significance of the games.
“The conference is intense but in the tournament it’s even more intense. If you’re not expected to get an at large bid it’s more important,” Kohler said. “We can’t get caught looking ahead because these games are so important.”
As his career in a Rowan jersey winds down, Kohler knows how he wants to end his collegiate career.
“The big thing would be to win a national championship, but other than that, I’d love to leave a lasting impression on the program. When I first got here we struggled a little bit,” Kohler said. “There’s been a drought of Rowan in the national tournament so I’d love to go out on top. That’s the goal for the program but after that, it’d be to leave a positive impression on the program for years to come and to have my name remembered for some time.”