Lions crawl past Ospreys in first round of NJACs

By Miguel Gonzalez

Sports Editor

Captain of the men’s soccer team, senior midfielder Domenic Polidoro, knows how to prevail when the clock moves past the initial 90 minutes.

“As athletes, we know that the game is not over until the final whistle is blown,” Polidoro said. “Until the game is over, everyone needs to find energy and push forward in an attempt to win the game.”

Dresch makes the game-winning goal in overtime. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)
Dresch makes the game-winning goal in overtime. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

After playing four overtime matches this season and qualifying as the sixth seed for the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament, the Lions defeated the Stockton University Ospreys in a 2-1 overtime victory.

The road to the NJAC tournament was not simple for the Lions. With two conference victories by Saturday, Sept. 24, the Lions endured setback losses against Rutgers-Newark, Rutgers-Camden and Stockton universities.

Once October arrived, the Lions remained in playoff contention after grinding out a win against Ramapo College and a tie against Montclair State University.

A crucial away victory against the Kean University Cougars led the Lions to an important last regular season match with the nationally 10th-ranked Rowan University Profs at Lions Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

“We have a lot at stake here, and the possibility of it being the last game played at home, under the lights, makes it even more important that we get a win,” Polidoro said. “It is going to be an NJAC dogfight for sure.”

The Profs burst through the Lions in the first half. The defensive trio of senior defender Clayton Flon, sophomore defender Nick Provenzano and Polidoro were on their heels as they recorded four blocks. Despite the relentless effort, the Profs scored two goals.

In the 20th minute, Profs junior midfielder Tyler Logar fed a pass to sophomore forward Shane Doherty, who then slipped past Lions sophomore goalkeeper Dan Walsh to give the Profs a 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, senior midfielder Nick Costelloe almost tied the match with a shot saved by Profs goalkeeper Kyle Dennis.

Toward the 37th minute, Doherty struck again with another goal when he rebounded a shot off Walsh and tapped in the goal at the right corner.

During halftime, head coach George Nazario and his coaching staff took the time to celebrate the senior players’ last home game.

“(The seniors) grew to be a great core,” Nazario said. “Their leadership is paramount on and off the field. I hope we end their last season with a good run in the NJAC tournament.”

In the second half, the Lions managed to net a goal. At the 60th minute, freshman defender Matt Decker lasered a shot toward the center of the goal. In the midst, senior forward Thomas Hogue got the rebound and scored.

The Lions were not able to counter afterwards as the Profs scored another goal and shunned their offense. Even though the Lions lost 3-1, they qualified for the sixth seed in the NJAC tournament.

“During my time here at TCNJ, and playing within the NJAC, I learned how important each individual game truly is,” Polidoro said. “Dropping points here or there to teams that didn’t deserve to beat (or tie) us really can affect the playoff run later in the season.”

On Saturday, Oct. 29, the Lions headed to Galloway, N.J., to compete their first NJAC tournament match since 2013. Previously, the Ospreys defeated the Lions in a 2-0 victory at Lions Stadium. The two teams were paired up as the Ospreys were given the home field advantage as the fifth seed. Nonetheless, the Lions walked out with a win and a trip to the NJAC semifinals.

The Lions struck early when sophomore midfielder Nick Sample scored off a rebound with an assist from Hogue in the 12th minute. The Ospreys instantly fought back with a barrage of five shots. Walsh fortified the net as he recorded five saves in the first half.

In the second half, the Lions kept shooting and pressuring Ospreys freshman goalkeeper Michael Lescano with no goal in the end. At the 77th minute, Ospreys freshman defensive back Drew Ruble sent a pass toward senior defensive back Jeff Tanaski, who tapped in the equalizer for Stockton.

With the match tied at 1, the Lions rushed for another goal. Sophomore defender Nick Provenzano nearly scored off a header shot in the 85th minute.

In overtime, junior midfielder Peter Dresch led the Lions to a 2-1 victory by scoring off an assist from senior midfielder Nick Costelloe.

The College’s postseason win set the team for a rematch against Rowan University at Glassboro, N.J., on Monday, Oct. 31.

“Like any game, we always plan to win,” Polidoro said. “We know we have the capacity to beat any team we have faced thus far, so we need to continue this mentality into the game against Rowan.”