The Rowan men’s soccer team made their second straight appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament last weekend, hosting the first two rounds of the contest.
Last season the Profs made a return to the postseason for the first time since 2003. Despite the effort, the brown and gold fell to Dickinson College, 2-1, in overtime.
The first game of the weekend pitted Rowan against the Lehman College Lightning on Saturday.
The Lightning made the tournament by winning the City University New York Athletic Conference. This, however, meant nothing to the Profs.
Sophomore defender Brian Dziobak found the back of the net after less than two minutes of play. The score was his third of the year.
“I just took it and played it out wide to Tyler Logar,” Dziobak said. “I kept my run going and he played a dime and I put it in.”
In the eighth minute, senior forward Vinny Ignatowicz put the team up 2-0. Freshman midfielder Pete Hall and sophomore forward Shane Doherty each added a goal in the second half, making the final score 4-0.
“We played well,” head coach Scott Baker said. “They were a good team, I think they came out and played well, but this is what we expected.”
The win marked the first in the NCAA tournament for the brown and gold since that 2003 season. Ignatowicz compared the win to last year’s result and how different the emotions were.
“It’s such a different feeling. Last year we were young, really inexperienced as far as postseason play,” Ignatowicz said. “We put so much into it [last year]. This year, it was a little more solid. It’s just everything you want.”
The win advanced the Profs to Sunday, when they faced Tufts University. The Jumbos were coming off of a win against Springfield College the day before.
In the early goings, the game had the feel of a heavy-weight fight. The teams were feeling each other out, trading shots and corner kicks instead of hooks and jabs.
It wasn’t until there was 16 minutes left in the half that the Jumbos found the back of the net.
The second half saw much more urgency from the Profs. They outshot their opponent, 8 to 2, in the second stanza, but were still unable to capitalize.
One of the best chances for the brown and gold came when sophomore forward Zack Sakena took a shot when Tufts’ goalkeeper misplayed the ball. However, Sakena’s shot went wide right.
“We played them really well, but not our best. Sometimes that’s disappointing,” Ignatowicz said. “I think we had a majority of the play going forward. We had a couple balls in the box that didn’t bounce our way, a couple plays that didn’t develop the way we wanted them too, but that’s what happens.”
The 1-0 loss eliminated the Profs from the tournament, ending their season.
“This was a great test. We played really well, obviously not well enough to win, but you don’t come off the field after the season we had and look too much towards this game,” Baker said. “We’re 17-3-1, we’ve done what this program hasn’t done in years and as a whole, we’re proud of what we’re building.”
For seniors Ignatowicz and Shane Patterson, it was the last game of their collegiate careers.
“From preseason all the way to now, it’s just been such a good year,” Patterson said. “So many memories created from bonding as a team. It showed in all the games, it just stinks that it has to end early.”
The “good year” that Paterson spoke of had the most wins, 17, for the men’s soccer team in 13 years. That mark was undoubtedly fueled by the talent on the team, which was recognized by the NJAC.
Doherty, Ignatowicz and sophomore defender Will Sjaastad were honored as First Team All-Conference selections. Sjaastad also added Defensive Player of the Year to his resume, one that already includes NJAC Rookie of the Year from last year.
Junior forward Travis Ward made his second straight appearance on the Second Team. Junior midfielders Jake Conners and Tyler Logar were named Honorable Mention All-Conference. Sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Dennis also made that list for the second straight year.
“We beat Messiah last year, who won [the title] a bunch of times, and we beat Camden who was in the final with Messiah,” Baker said after the Tufts game. “We’re beating the best teams in the country, so the potential is there, it was there this year. We’ve got to work hard every year to keep it where it was. This wasn’t an easy season to just come back and do the same thing.”