Lions battle for first, fall in conference final; Kean outplays College in overtime loss at home

A Lion advances the ball. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The men’s soccer team’s season came to an upsetting end this past Friday. The No. 1-ranked team in the New Jersey Athletic Conference lost to No. 6-ranked Kean University in the championship game here at Lions’ Stadium in overtime. It was the second game that went past regulation that week for the team, as they defeated No. 3-ranked Montclair State University in a thrilling penalty shootout on Tuesday evening in the semi-final game as well.

Senior defender Mike Razzoli scored the only goal for the Lions in the semifinal matchup, his third consecutive goal in as many games. The team created chances up through both overtime periods, and was well prepared when the game had to be decided on penalty kicks once Montclair tied the game in the 67th minute. The team backed senior goalkeeper Chris Kulick in net, who came off the bench once time expired. It was a choice well-made, as Kulick allowed only the first shot on goal before stopping the next three. Converted penalties from junior striker Ray Nelan, sophomore Vinnie McEnroe and junior striker Dan Constants gave the Lions a 3-1 victory and a well-deserved spot in Friday’s final.

“Penalty kicks are just something I’ve always had a knack for,” Kulick said. “I am confident in my ability and luckily I was able to reward coach for giving me the opportunity to make a difference.”

“I just came to play as usual,” Razzoli said about his goal. “I was in the right place at the right time and capitalized on my chances.”

With high hopes and the support of a full stadium, the Lions battled against Kean University for their first NJAC title since 2005. The Lions created numerous chances, but couldn’t capitalize to score a game winner, sending the game into double overtime once more. It only took 2 minutes after the restart for sophomore Abner Denis to finally find the back of the net, shocking the Lions and putting an end to their season.

Still, the team is not without their own set of accomplishments. After beginning the season 2-5-1, the Lions went on a 10-game undefeated streak, tying only to Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and

Junior midfielder Anthony DiPalmo slides for the ball between two Cougars. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Muhlenberg College.

“I feel like the Rutgers Camden game was a big turning point,” Cunha said. “It was the game after the Montclair loss which was a disappointing result. It’s a difficult place to play and we went in there and set the tone that set us up on our unbeaten run.”

The team earned the No. 1 ranking in the conference at the end of regular season, a large improvement from their No. 7 pre-season ranking. Their 7-1-1 NJAC record was even a program best. On an individual level, coach George Nazario was named the NJAC Coach of the Year. Nelan and Cunha were named on the All-NJAC team and Cunha also received the David Logar Award for leadership and courage.

“Phil has a great presence on and off the field,” Razzoli said. “He works hard and makes things happen. I am lucky to have him as a co-captain this year and a friend for my time here.”

“Soccer is a crazy game,” Cunha said. “It’ll have you thankful to be alive one day, and pulling your hair our the next. That’s life, and that’s soccer. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.”