Lions find their stride; Nelan nets two for team

The men’s soccer team was seeing red this week and, like a bull, pounced on it, defeating the Scarlet Raptors of Rutgers-Camden on Wednesday and the Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders on Saturday.

In front of a blissful homecoming audience, junior forward Ray Nelan collected a ball from junior forward Luigi Moriello netting the only goal of the afternoon on Saturday in the 1-0 Lions victory over Rutgers-Newark.

“It’s important that Ray is starting to get is going on offense,” head coach George Nazario said. “Especially during conference games where opponents are more familiar with your roster. We need to find more sources of offense and be more unpredictable. Someone has to step up, and Ray has.”

Moriello gathered a pass just inside Scarlet Raiders territory and sent a pass between a pair of Rutgers-Newark defenders. The ball was chased down by Nelan inside the box who then made a move around a charging goal keeper and tickled the twine for his second marker of the season providing the Lions with the only offense it would need.

“I’m very happy with Ray’s play of late,” Nazario said. “He’s a junior right now and he’s really developing into a leader, and as a forward the best thing you can do is put the ball in the net.”

Defense was the overwhelming theme of this game and it was led by the strong play of sophomore goal keeper Adam Friedman between the pipes. Friedman stopped four shots and earned his first shutout of the season, increasing the Lions record to 4-5-1.

“These conference games are the most important,” Nazario said. “If we’re sound defensively, we’ll create offensive opportunities and the defense really stems from strong play in net. Adam has done very well for us, shutouts are hard to come by.”

Wednesday’s match in Camden saw much of the same, a strong Lions defense, and another one goal victory for the men’s soccer program.

Junior midfielder Ryan O’Donnell scored the first goal of his career and it proved to be the game winner at 57:31. O’Donnell redirected a crossing pass with his head on a restart kick from sophomore Vince McEnroe to put the Lions up 2-1 in NJAC play.

Nelan scored his career goal in the first half of this game to put the Lions up 1-0. Nelan controlled the ball inside the box and crushed a shot with his left foot to the opposite post.

“I’m sure the team is thinking about our conference rank,” Nazario said, “but we can’t focus on it. We’re not as talented as a lot of the NJAC teams but our positioning is solid and we play well as a team. We have to stay focused on the next game if we’re to remain where we are.”

The Lions are now 4-5-1 on the year and 3-1-0 in NJAC play. The team takes to the pitch again on Saturday against William Paterson University at the Soccer Complex at 1 p.m.