By Miguel Gonzalez
The competition may be formidable and the double overtime losses can be draining, but the men’s soccer team is ready for any challenge.
After a disappointing season last year, the Lions are looking to rebound with a more experienced squad. Despite being ranked eighth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference men’s soccer preseason coaches poll, the Lions have the pieces to assemble a contender.
The team will feature senior midfielders Nick Sample and Joerg Jauk, who received conference honorable mentions last year. On offense, the Lions will be fueled by sophomores such as midfielder Ryan Vazquez, midfielder James Pike and forward Abdullah Afridi. Sophomore goalkeeper Michael Kayal will lead the Lions on defense.
Kayal, who gathered 63 saves last season, will play a key role in keeping the Lions intact during close matches. Last season, the team couldn’t prevail in overtime, as they tied three matches and lost two matches.
Head Coach George Nazario is confident that the sophomores will lead the team to victories in the NJAC.
“We have a good group of sophomores who are ready to play tough, competitive opponents,” Nazario said. “Their experience will come in handy.”
Another obstacle the Lions have to overcome this season is injuries. Nazario emphasizes the need to adapt when some team members aren’t able to play.
“Last year, we dealt with many injuries and setbacks,” Nazario said. “So far this season, we don’t have Nick Provenzo and Dan Walsh playing because of injuries. So, we have to adapt and use our resources to the fullest.”
Competing in the NJAC will be a challenge, as the Lions will encounter fierce competition.
Both Rowan University and Rutgers University-Newark are returning opponents that competed in last year’s NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship. Meanwhile, William Paterson University and Rutgers University-Camden are coming fresh off of solid playoff performances at the 2017 Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Men’s Soccer Championship.
The Lions will also dispute against tough non-conference opponents. Both Stevens Institute of Technology and Drew University reached the Sweet 16 round of the 2017 NCAA tournament.
Nazario looks forward to the matchup against Brooklyn College on Monday, Oct. 15.
“Brooklyn College will be a good match because they are looking to play competitively,” Nazario said.
“For an out-of-conference opponent, they are striving to improve and become a contender.”
This weekend, the Lions will begin the hunt for their first NJAC title since 2005 by opening up with a pair of matches at the Drew Fall Festival.
The team will journey on a trip to Madison, New Jersey to face Centenary University on Friday, Aug. 31 at 4:30 p.m. and Marymount University on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 1:00 p.m.