Living in a country halfway across the world can be intimidating, especially in a college environment. But freshman midfielder Kolja Mueller, who is at the College because of an international exchange program, is adjusting just fine.
He proved this when he led the men’s soccer team to victory on Friday with his overtime game-winning goal against DeSales University in the Osprey Classic at Richard Stockton College.
The Lions got off to a bit of a slow start against DeSales, when they scored the first goal 30 minutes into the game to put the Lions at a 1-0 disadvantage. With only six minutes remaining in the game, sophomore midfielder Michael Ferber found the back of the net off of a feed from junior forward Ryan McMann to tie the game at one.
This sent the game into overtime and that is when Mueller stepped it up. Thirteen minutes into the overtime period, Mueller received the ball off a pass from senior defenseman Jim Cooney in front of the goal and Mueller unleashed his shot.
The DeSales goaltender misplayed the ball and it trickled over the goal line, giving the Lions a 2-1 victory. The win marked the fourth of the year for the Lions, a sharp contrast from last year’s 0-4 start.
Head coach George Nazario is pleased with the way his team has been playing so far this year.
“We’ve gone in a completely opposite direction compared to last year’s start,” Nazario said. “The caliber of teams has not been as good, but this undefeated start is going to be a great confidence builder for us.”
McMann is happy with the addition of Mueller to the team this year and knows he will be a key figure if the College is to have a successful season.
“Kolja has been a great addition to our team,” McMann said. “He plays a very controlled style of central midfield and brings a certain toughness to our team, playing a more German style of soccer than we are used to.”
As if one overtime thriller was not enough for the College in one week, they followed it on Saturday with another heart-stopper. This time, the opponent was Wesley College and was also a part of the Osprey Classic at Richard Stockton.
Both defenses held strong for the 90 minutes of regulation time and the score was 0-0 going into the extra frame. Once again, a hero emerged for the College and this time it was McMann.
The Lions maintained possession for much of the overtime period and in the 107th minute, senior midfielder Adam Cooper played a ball over the defense downfield to McMann. McMann raced to the ball, beat one defender and then slipped the ball past the goalie. The ball barely crossed the goal line and was then cleared by the Wesley defense.
No whistle was blown, but the referees conferred and determined the ball had indeed crossed the line, so the Lions won the game 1-0. McMann was thrilled to be able to finally put the College on the board in a hard-fought match.
“When I scored that goal in overtime, it felt great,” McMann said. “I was finally able to culminate the team’s effort into a victory for our team.”
Although overtime game-winning goals can be exciting, none of that is possible without good defense and goal-keeping. Senior goalkeeper Shawn Mecchi made a total of 12 saves last week and collected his second shutout of the season against Wesley. Mecchi is excited about what is in store for his team this year.
“The team has a lot of chemistry this year,” Mecchi said. “I haven’t seen us move the ball like this in the time I’ve been here.”
The College, which is now 5-0, will have its first test of the season this week in an away game against seventh-ranked Stevens Institute of Technology. On Saturday the Lions will travel to Montclair State University.