The men’s soccer team (10-2-3) remained unbeaten in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) this week, defeating William Paterson University on Wednesday and Kean University on Saturday.
The College, which entered the week ranked 14th in Division III, improved its NJAC record to 5-0-2. Its win Saturday moved the Lions past Montclair State University for second place in the NJAC.
“That’s important,” head coach George Nazario said about his team’s climb in the standings. “You want to avoid playing a first round game (in the NJAC Tournament) by getting a one or a two seed.”
On Saturday, the Lions outlasted the Cougars in a 2-0 victory. Senior defender Charlie Heydt broke a scoreless tie at 64:17, heading a ball over the extended arm of Kean’s senior goalkeeper Kyle Crego. Senior midfielder Craig Langan notched an assist on the play.
“It came off a flick-on,” Heydt said. “I knew the goalie was out, so I just flicked it in.”
Until Heydt’s goal, the Lions were unable to muster offensive pressure and relied upon senior goalkeeper Steve Scutellaro to keep them tied. Scutellaro finished with 10 saves.
“Keeping it tied at 0-0 was big,” Scutellaro said. “Once it gets into the second half, whoever gets that first goal gets the momentum.”
Nazario agreed with Scutellaro.
“We felt that if we kept knocking it around, Kean was going to tire physically and mentally,” Nazario said.
His prediction came true as the Lions surged in the second half. After Heydt’s goal, sophomore forward Kevin Luber scored at 75:41, following up on a shot by sophomore forward Anthony Staropoli. The goal was Luber’s team-leading 10th of the season.
On Wednesday, Luber propelled the Lions past William Paterson 3-2. Luber scored twice, including the game winner, and added an assist.
“(Luber’s) been solid all season,” Nazario said. “When he is around the goal, he always finds a way to stick it in the back of the net.”
Luber opened the scoring at 1:09, converting on a centering pass from senior forward Nima Rahimi.
“(Rahimi) played a great ball back across, and I was lucky enough to be in the right spot,” Luber said.
William Paterson freshman forward Julian Valerio responded with his first of two goals, tying the game at 4:42 on a pass from freshman forward Danny Kusnic.
After this flurry of activity in the opening minutes, the game moved into a defensive deadlock for the remainder of the first half. Scutellaro kept the score even in the final minutes of the half, knocking away a shot by Valerio before adding another save on a corner kick.
The Lions struck early once again in the second half as Staropoli scored on an assist from Luber. The play began when Luber intercepted a clearing attempt.
“The ball got played out wide and I had my head up,” Luber said. “The guys were yelling ‘back post, back post,’ so I just sent it back post and (Staropoli) was there.”
After Valerio knotted the game once again for William Paterson, Luber’s second goal of the game gave the Lions the lead for good at 70:18. On a pass from Staropoli, Luber rocketed a one-timer past senior goalkeeper David Casper.
The Lions will visit Muhlenberg College Wednesday at 7 p.m. and New Jersey City University on Saturday at 1 p.m.