Soccer outmuscled and forced out of playoffs

The Lions' season comes to an end. (Lauren Del Turco / Staff Photographer)

A collapse in a do-or-die game against Rowan University was rendered meaningless by circumstances outside of the men’s soccer team’s control, leaving the team outside the playoff picture for a second consecutive year due to a 4-2 loss on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

The Lions (7-11) showed flashes of promise down the stretch, finishing the season 3-2 while scoring an average of more than three goals per game in that time, and they showed off their offensive prowess against the Profs with two early goals from senior forward Ray Nelan and junior midfielder Tyler Higgins.

Sophomore midfielder Kevin McCartney looped a ball over the back line in the third minute which Nelan latched onto, and the forward muscled off his defender before finishing from close range for his second goal since coming back from injury.

Nelan troubled the Profs’ defense again in the 20th minute by forcing the turnover which led to a blistering 20-yard laser from Higgins, who had earned a place in head coach George Nazario’s starting XI with a hat-trick against New Jersey City University.

But a galvanized Rowan squad on the brink of elimination rattled off four straight goals, two by towering central defender Jared Mangone, to kick off a run to the NJAC finals against Rutgers-Camden University.

The Rowan comeback also ended a disappointing season for the Lions, who more or less equaled their 2011 season in all of the major statistical categories: win percentage (from 35 percent last year to 39 percent in 2012), goals per game (1.65 to 1.56) and goals conceded (1.94 to 1.72).

The College did perform better in conference play, though, improving its record from 1-6-2 to 3-6-0, and three seniors were honored by the NJAC for their play throughout the season: goal-scoring machine Kevin Shaw and industrious midfielder Sean Casey were named to the all-conference second team, while assist-leader and central defender Vince McEnroe was an honorable mention.

The Lions will have a host of game changers that could return next year, though, including McCartney,  Higgins and goalkeeper Mike Libucha for another crack at making the postseason.