With just under 14 minutes left in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship, the second-seeded Rowan men’s soccer team had two point-blank shots on the Montclair State University net. The first hit off the post. The second hit off the crossbar.
Those two shots in a five-second span summed up the night for the brown and gold.
Not only did they lose the game, 3-0, to the fifth-seeded Redhawks, but they lost the chance at winning the NJAC title for the first time since 2003. On paper, No. 7 ranked Rowan had the best opportunity to do just that.
“We’re keeping our heads high, that’s the only thing we can do,” junior captain Tyler Logar said. “We congratulate Montclair, they came out with the win, but we’re going to go forward with this.”
Head coach Scott Baker said he didn’t know why the team couldn’t pull out the win on Friday night. There was nothing to be said.
“As far as tonight, I don’t have the answer,” Baker said. “We’ve won a lot of games that were challenging and that we overcame adversity. It’s a great team and we have to move forward.”
By all accounts the Profs dominated play, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the first half alone, Rowan tallied 14 shots compared to Montclair’s two. Despite the disparity, the Redhawks led 1-0 after the first stanza thanks to an unlucky own goal four minutes into the game.
“I do think that hurt us a lot,” Baker said. “I don’t think it affected the guys’ attitudes. They were battling the entire game and we just couldn’t find the net tonight.”
The second half saw much of the same.
Rowan had five corner kicks compared to one for Montclair, and took 15 shots compared to the opposition’s seven, but still to no avail. The Redhawks tacked on two more scores at the 62 and 71 minute marks, respectively.
“I think we played really well and with a lot of heart. We were up the field 95 percent of the game,” senior captain Vinny Ignatowicz said. “The three times they were in the final third, the ball went into the net. None of the goals were nice, it just seemed like it wasn’t our game.”
“The first feeling you want is the ball in the back of the net,” Logar said. “When it’s pinging back out numerous times it’s frustrating, of course. We’ll be looking forward to putting those away in the NCAA’s.”
The NCAA Division III Championship tournament is the next time that the brown and gold will see action. Even though they did not receive the automatic bid to the tournament that comes with winning the conference championship, the Profs being ranked in the top 25 for a majority of the season pretty much guarantees them a spot.
It’s just a matter of who they will play. Based off how the brown and gold felt following the loss to Montclair, whoever gets selected to go against the team should be on guard.
“NJAC’s were never on our board. We never said, ‘let’s win the NJAC title,’ we were going for NCAA’s from day one,” Ignatowicz said. “This would’ve been cool, it would’ve been nice playing at home, but it’s not a rock in our road. We’re good to go to NCAA’s and our focus is on that. You’re going to see a deadly team like we’ve said from the beginning.”
The Profs will find out their opponent for the DIII Championship tournament at 1 p.m. on Monday.