The College’s men’s soccer team did not kick off its New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) schedule the way it had hoped. Last Saturday, the Lions suffered their second loss of the year, 3-0, at undefeated Montclair State University.
In the first half, the College’s defense was staunch and did not allow a goal. But in the second half, things began to unravel a bit. Senior goalkeeper Shawn Mecchi was able to stop three of the Red Hawks’ shots, but he also let three get by him in the second half.
The Lions had five shots on goal in the game, but none of them found the back of the net. Head coach George Nazario said he was frustrated that his team was unable to score.
“Their goalkeeper only made one big time save,” Nazario said. “We were getting opportunities, but the shots weren’t dangerous enough. We have to be a little more aggressive around the net.”
Unfortunately for the Lions, they had many of the same problems earlier in the week in their game against seventh-ranked Stevens Institute of Technology, who also went into the game undefeated. The Lions went into the game ranked 15th in Division III, so a good New Jersey rivalry match-up was certainly in the cards.
The Lions could not get off to a good start, though, and they trailed very early in the match on a goal by junior midfielder Brian Marks. Marks went on to assist on another goal for Stevens as they rolled over the Lions with the shut-out.
Nazario was aware that the level of competition was much higher than the teams the Lions had played earlier in the season. “(Stevens) deserved to win,” he said. “They were an excellent team and controlled the ball for much of the game.”
The two losses last week put the Lions’ record at 5-2, but the team has two big NJAC home games coming up this week. Today, they will square off against Ramapo and on Saturday they will take on Richard Stockton College. Senior midfielder and team captain Adam Cooper is confident that his team will then be able to rebound from the two tough losses last week.
“We just have to keep working hard,” Cooper said. “We won our fair share of 50-50 balls on Saturday and we are all really hustling. We did everything but put the ball in the net, and that is something we can work on.”
In order to provide a spark to the offense, Nazario has decided to move to a lineup which includes three forwards instead of the two that they had been using. He hopes the extra forward will be just what the doctor ordered for the Lions’ slumping offense.
Although the Lions offense seems to be having a tough time, the exact opposite can be said for the way the team is gelling together. Freshman forward Nick Kiel has only been involved in the program for about a month, and he already feels like he’s a part of the team.
“Everyone on the team gets along,” Kiel said. “We have all hung out together many times and we all communicate and work well with each other.”
The Lions are hoping this communication will contribute to a couple of big NJAC victories this week.