Some players on the Rowan men’s soccer team will tell you that their season finale match-up against The College of New Jersey is just another game. However, in the back of their minds, they know the implications of the game.
“This game is the most important of the season,” Rowan head coach Scott Baker said. “If we lose, it is potentially our last game, but if we win we’re in a better position with the conference and the NCAA tournament.”
Baker’s team knows just how important this game is as well.
“I won’t sugar coat it, it’s the biggest game of the season. It’s pretty much do or die. Based off of standings, if we get this win, I believe we get third and a home playoff game,” senior midfielder and captain Shane Kohler said. “A tie or a loss can put us anywhere from 3rd and national tourney to out of NJAC tourney, which is wild. This is one of the bigger games that’s been played for rowan in the last 5 years.”
Freshman goalkeeper Kyle Dennis said he knew of the importance, but the team must simply play the game and not the occasion.
On paper, the Profs are the better team. They have a better overall record at 14-4, and are ahead of TCNJ in almost every major statistical category.
However, TCNJ has presented a challenge for the Profs in the past. They have beaten the brown and gold in each of the past two seasons, keeping them out of the playoffs by doing so.
Coach Baker doesn’t think that those results mean anything to this year’s team.
“I don’t know if they present a challenge to this team,” Baker said. “Those two previous teams are very different. They have nothing to do with this team.”
Sophomore midfielder and captain Tyler Logar was a member of last year’s team that was denied tournament play by TCNJ.
“Players come and go, people make different runs and different plays. This team is more of a family,” Logar said. “This year we have each other and everything is for the team. We’re doing it for each other. I think that’s the biggest difference.”
The game was originally supposed to be played on Wednesday night, but was rescheduled due to the stormy weather. Dennis sees the postponed game as an opportunity that helps the team.
“We’re gonna keep it light in practice,” Dennis said. “We can get everyone recuperated since we’ve played a couple of hard games the past couple of weeks. So it’s definitely a benefit for us.”
The Profs are currently riding a four game winning streak, three of those wins coming on the road, after dropping two consecutive NJAC contests to Montclair State and Stockton. Those four wins have helped the Profs get some confidence back.
“It definitely helps especially after last season. I wasn’t a part of that team, but late season losses held them back,” freshman defender Will Sjaastad said. “The streak is raising the morale and personally, I think we’re getting on a run right now.”
During the streak, Rowan has outscored their opponents by a tally of 14-2, and the goals have been coming from everywhere on the field.
While making the NJAC tournament isn’t the team’s main goal, it is an important step for Baker, who is looking to make the postseason for the first time as a head coach.
“For me personally, it’s very important,” Baker said. “My expectations for this team is the national tournament, which is above and beyond the conference tournament, but making it means everything to me.”