So far this season, the No. 8 ranked Rowan men’s soccer team has been a buzzsaw, tearing through its opponents on the way to an 8-0 record. Following Wednesday night’s thrilling 2-1 victory against No. 6 Franklin and Marshall College, the Profs are ready to begin the bulk of the New Jersey Athletic Conference schedule.
The brown and gold already have a conference win to their name after coming away with a 4-2 victory against New Jersey City University on Sept. 17.
However, head coach Scott Baker had mixed reviews of the team’s performance.
“We were nowhere where we need to be for the level that we want to be at against an NJAC team or any other top-level team,” Baker said. “We need to be a lot better than we were. With that being said, any win in the NJAC is great.”
If that statement and the preseason polls that had Rowan picked to finish second in the NJAC hold true, then there will be a lot of greatness with the 2016 team.
Just don’t expect it to be pretty.
“The NJAC is a bunch of athletes. There are rivalries, history and a lot of animosity,” senior forward Vinny Ignatowicz said. “It’s scrappy play, it’s not really a pretty game to be in, but it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot at stake, they’re big wins to pick up.”
Ignatowicz continued to say that although some teams are better than others, every school in the NJAC is a rival and that the team wants to “beat them all down.”
Last season, Rowan was able to pick up six wins in the conference, good enough to land them in fourth place and secure a spot in the conference tournament. After defeating Kean University on Halloween night, the Profs fell in the semifinal, 5-1, against Montclair State University.
This year, they are hoping for a different outcome.
“We need to focus on us,” Ignatowicz said. “I think that’s the most important thing. As long as we play how we play and do it at the level we should, there’s no one that will touch us. We need to come out with that confidence.”
Just because the team is 8-0, it does not necessarily mean that its success will continue into conference play. According to Baker and Ignatowicz, the NJAC is a different monster compared to out of conference opponents.
“Out of conference teams look to keep possession and play, but in the NJAC it’s a war,” Baker said. “Whether the team we’re playing against is better than us or worse than us, it’s the same thing. Every team comes out and they’re ready for battle. Out of conference you don’t always see that.”
If the brown and gold want to make noise in the conference this year, it will be with the help of some new faces. Half of the players on the 28-man roster were not a part of the 2015 team. However, that does not mean they are not prepared.
“I sat out last year, but I saw a lot of NJAC games like Montclair and Stockton. When two teams step on the field, they’re going at each other,” freshman midfielder Pete Hall said. “Mentally, I know what I’m coming into and I know what it’s going to be so I think that I’m ready for it. I’m ready to go to battle with my guys.”
The team’s first home conference game is on Saturday against William Paterson at 7 p.m.