The College’s men’s soccer team continued its magical season last week, proving the naysayers wrong once again by capturing the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title with a 1-0 win over Rutgers University-Camden on Saturday.
The Lions were picked to finish in ninth place in the NJAC preseason poll, but this championship win concluded an unexpected, yet wonderful regular season.
With the game scoreless 13:59 into the second half, sophomore forward Matt Luber scored off a pass from junior defender Tim Dudek.
The defense held strong the rest of the game and sophomore goalie Matt Kasperavicius stopped all three shots that came at him, preserving his fifth shutout of the season.
This is the 17th conference championship that the college has won since 1959, but this is the first for any player currently on the team.
Luber was thrilled with his goal and even more excited about his team’s NJAC championship. “It felt incredible to score that goal,” Luber said, “It was only a matter of time before someone found the net.”
Luber went on to comment about the team’s first NJAC championship since 1994. “It’s amazing,” he said, “considering the competitiveness of our conference and the way things were last year.”
The College certainly embraced the underdog role after not performing as well as they hoped last year, and sophomore forward Nima Rahimi said it felt wonderful. “Anytime you’re the underdog and you can prove people wrong, it feels much better,” he said.
The College’s victory in the NJAC championship game earned them a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Lions, currently ranked No. 8 in the nation, also earned themselves a bye in the first round of the playoffs and will be hosting the second round game at Mercer County Community College on Saturday, Nov. 12. The Lions will be squaring off against the winner of the game between Roger Williams University and Mount Ida College. Game time is yet to be announced.
Earlier in the week, the College defeated New Jersey City University (NJCU) to gain entrance into the NJAC finals.
Sophomore forward Craig Langan scored two goals, including the game-winner.
Langan scored the game’s first goal 35:15 into the game off an assist from senior midfielder Matt Connor.
NJCU would take the lead, however, scoring the next two goals, but in the beginning of the second half junior midfielder Michael Ferber tied the game. Seven minutes later, Langan scored again to put the College ahead for good.
Luber says the team is ready to go and is going to do whatever it takes to get as far as possible in the playoffs.
“Well we have put ourselves in a great position for NCAAs,” Luber said. “We received a bye in the first round, but if we continue to play our style of possession soccer, we can take it very far.”