Men’s soccer clinches NJAC berth early

By Ryan Molicki
Correspondent

Perri scores his fifth goal of the year to ensure a playoff-clinching win. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk.)

With the regular season nearing its end, the men’s soccer team captured a huge 2-0 victory on Saturday, Oct. 19, over the Cougars of No. 10 Kean University after battling the Rangers of Drew University on Wednesday, Oct. 16, under the lights at Lions Stadium in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss.

With this win, and losses by Rowan and William Patterson University, the Lions (9-5-2, 4-2-1) clinched a berth in the 2013 New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships after missing out on the big dance last year.

The team started off its game against Drew University offensively, taking five shots in the first 20 minutes of the first half.Two chances from junior defender Ryan Sullivan and junior midfielder Kevin McCartney were both turned away by Rangers goalkeeper Michael Reyes.

The one and only goal of the game came for the Rangers in the 28th minute when senior Ricardo Castro scored his fifth goal of the season.

This goal ended up being the deciding factor in a crucial non-conference game for the Lions.

“We wanted to start building momentum going into our last three conference games,” senior midfielder Sean Casey said. “Unfortunately, we did not come out on top, but that made us more focused as a team and I think will help us down the road.”

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Lions hosted Kean in their last regular season home competition, which was also Senior Day.

The Lions came out of the gates and had nine shots in the first half, as red shirt senior forward Kevin Shaw was determined to get this victory on Senior Day.

“Everyone knew how important the game against Kean was, and practicing before this game knowing what the stakes were proved to be helpful. We knew a win would essentially clinch us a spot in the NJAC playoffs,” Shaw said. “Getting this win was very important for us and we have to keep up the intensity for the rest of our games.”

The six seniors — Sean Casey, Aaron Utman, Dan Lyons, Daniel Durnian, Kevin Shaw and Tyler Higgins — were honored for their hard work and long dedication to the team at halftime.

“Everyone on the team is very close and the last home game in the Soccer Complex for the seniors was the perfect stage for the team to perform,” Casey said. “It’s the team that makes everything possible from the guys who get no time to the full 90. Everyone contributes and makes us better.”

To begin the second half, the Lions came out with a lot of energy, determined to break the deadlock.

The tie was broken in the 67th minute when Casey scored his first goal of the season. Another goal added by sophomore midfielder Greg Perri in the 79th minute sealed the victory for the Lions. Senior goalkeeper Aaron Utman returned from injury and recorded three saves for his second clean sheet of the season.

“I would like to thank all of (the players) for putting in the time from preseason to now — (it) makes this win on Senior Day that much better,” Casey said.

The win on Saturday combined with losses by Rowan and William Patterson University allowed the Lions to clinch a playoff berth in the NJAC Championships. The shots were an incredible 25-9 in favor of the Lions.

“It is a sad feeling knowing this could have been my last game at the Soccer Complex. Coach Nazario reminded us of this before the game and told us that you always want your last game on a field to be a win,” Shaw said. “Fortnuately, we were able to get a win so that makes it a little nicer to know we won for the last time on the field. We have spent so much time and put in so much work.”

The Lions travel for their last two regular season games to face New Jersey City University on Saturday, Oct. 26, and Rowan University on Wednesday, Oct. 30 in opportunities to seeding in the NJACs.