Pioneers put Lions to sleep for the winter

It was not the happy ending the College faithful had hoped for.

The Lions’ season came to a close Saturday at Pioneer Soccer Park as the Pioneers of William Paterson University (WPU) routed the men’s soccer team 5-1 in the first round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament.

“It was pretty tough losing, but we knew it was going to be a hard game,” junior forward Kevin Luber said. “We played tough and I feel that any other night the result is different.”

The fourth-seeded Pioneers wasted no time on offense, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.

The Lions struck back quickly, however, as junior midfielder Anthony Staropoli tallied the lone College goal on an assist from Luber just 73 seconds later.

The assist was Luber’s team-leading 26th point of the year.

“Kevin is a great player,” senior midfielder Ryan McMahon said. “The last two years he has led our team in points, and … whenever we’ve needed something big, it normally comes from him.”

After Staropoli’s goal, the Pioneers reclaimed the lead in the 19th minute after the Lions caught a bad break on a Pioneer goal that ricocheted off the left post and spun into the net. That score put WPU out in front 2-1 at halftime.

As the second half began, so did the offensive onslaught for No. 11 WPU. The Pioneers scored three second-half goals to secure the victory and a spot in the NJAC Tournament semifinals. They will play next on the road against top-seeded Montclair State University.

“It was pretty grueling physically, especially since we were on our heels playing defense for the majority of the game,” senior forward Chris Nelan said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Eric Goldwaser was pulled in the 60th minute, recording no saves. Sophomore goalkeeper Chris Kulick made one save while allowing two goals in relief of Goldwaser.

The College did end the regular season on a high note, toppling Rutgers University-Newark 2-1 at the Soccer Complex.

McMahon started the scoring, tallying his second goal on the campaign on a feed from rookie forward Ray Nelan within the first two minutes of the contest.

“Getting the goal felt good,” McMahon said. “To score and contribute was nice.”

It then became a family affair as Chris Nelan notched his fourth goal of the season on yet another assist from Luber.

The Scarlet Raiders added a goal at the 35-minute mark, but it was not enough to obtain a win against the playoff-bound Lions.

Despite the Oct. 29 win, the Lions will go home early this year, finishing the campaign with an overall mark of 9-9-2 and an NJAC record of 5-5.

Michael O’Donnell can be reached at odonnel7@tcnj.edu.