Men’s soccer split leaves no room for error

A suddenly efficient offense for the men’s soccer team, firing on all cylinders, was enough to split a pair of road games last week, as the College canceled out a victory at William Paterson University with a late loss at Kean University to set up two must-win games at home.

The Lions (6-10) scored just 11 times in their first 12 games, but have made a habit of finding the back of the net lately with nine in their last four and six goals last week.

The Lions play hard. (Lauren Del Turco / Staff Photographer)

“I think the entire team, especially (head coach George Nazario) knew the goals were going to come, it was just a matter of when,” freshman goalkeeper Mike Libucha said of the team. “In the second half of the Muhlenburg game (Oct. 3) it was like someone flipped a light switch on us and suddenly we score seven goals in the next three games.”

The goals came for both the Lions and their opponent in a wild 4-2 win at William Paterson, with the Pioneers opening the scoring in the 15th minute and freshman midfielder Tokio Nakamoto responding just five minutes later.

Junior forward Vinnie Carbone canceled out another Pioneers goal with his second of the year after half time, and the College earned its first lead of the night when senior midfielder Sean Casey smacked a low shot to the right of the Pioneers’ goalkeeper in the 62nd minute.

Sophomore midfielder Kevin McCartney blasted home an unassisted goal in the 82nd minute to seal the game and earn his second goal in as many games.

The Lions’ lively offense returned for the trip to Kean, with Casey knocking home a McEnroe corner kick in the 5th minute and Shaw converting a pass from McCartney in the 68th to set the score at 2-1.

But the Lions squandered the lead, conceding two goals in the final six minutes of the game against a team that had been on a three-game losing streak.

“I still am trying to figure out what happened in the last five minutes,” Libucha said. “I talked to (Vince) McEnroe and Kevin Shaw and all three of us didn’t know what to say, we didn’t know who to blame. (As) soon as they scored their tying goal, the next five minutes happened so fast and Kean kept storming down the field with chances and eventually they punished us.”

The loss puts the Lions in must-win mode as they close out the regular season against conference cellar-dwellers New Jersey City University and Rowan University during Homecoming week.

“The last two games are do or die for us. If we still want a shot at the NJAC playoffs we need to win them both,” Libucha said. “I think the message is pretty clear for the whole team and we all know we have to take care of business.”