Men’s soccer loses in NJAC final but earns bid to NCAAs

The men's soccer team beat Rutgers-Newark 3-2 on Oct 19. Photo/ Multimedia Editor Christian A Browne.

The men’s soccer team was knocked out of the NJAC tournament in the finals against Montclair State but the road they took to get there showed what determination and grit this team has.

Senior captain Kevin Primich scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime against Kean University to send Rowan men’s soccer to the semi-finals against Ramapo College.

Rowan lost to both Kean and Ramapo in the regular season and used that loss against Kean as motivation that eventually led to the double-overtime win.

The Kean win was at home, where the Profs are undefeated on the season but Ramapo was a different story. It was on the road.

The Profs struggled in the road this season, especially against NJAC opponents.

That all changed, however, with a 1-0 upset victory over the top-seeded Ramapo College. Another senior captain scored the game-winning goal for Rowan, Modou Sowe.

Head coach Scott Baker knows how tough those conference wins are and every single win against a conference team is a big deal especially when it comes in the playoffs.

The win on the road against Ramapo is huge in the eyes of the team, with Ramapo having an All-American in Joseph Fala.

“Obviously, Ramapo’s in first place,” Baker said. “Playing them at their place [is] maybe even a bigger deal. They have an All-American and we ended his career. That’s not easy to do so yeah, I was super proud of the guys. They locked it down to get a shutout in that environment [and that] was special.”

Baker wouldn’t call the game against Ramapo as a revenge game but the loss against Ramapo in the regular season served as motivation for the Profs.

“When it comes down to it and you’re playing, you’re not in those moments thinking, ‘this is revenge’, that’s the way you should show up to the game and then once the game starts, you have to gut it out and put heart and determination and all those things and we did, we did it for 90 minutes and we shut them down,” Baker said.

The win advanced them to the NJAC finals to play Montclair State University, a rematch of last year’s NJAC semi-finals matchup between the two teams.

The end result was different than the previous two games as Rowan lost 1-0, the lone goal coming with two minutes remaining in regulation. 

Despite the loss, Baker felt the team played as well against Montclair as they did against Ramapo.

“We played a player down for more than half the game, we had a goal called back, and it didn’t go our way,” Baker said. “But walking off the field, I was just as proud of our guys at Montclair as I was at Ramapo.”

Despite coming up short in the NJAC Championship Tournament, the Profs earned a bid to the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament. Baker’s overall goal for the program is to be the best in the country and will use the tournament to accomplish that goal.

“If you don’t make the tournament, you can’t be the best in the country,” Baker said. “We really wanted a conference title and that didn’t happen and we have to move on, but we’re moving on to our ultimate goal and that is to be the best program in the country. Now, we get a chance to prove that.”

Overcoming adversity and perseverance can be associated with how the Profs have played this season. Without looking back on the season as the team’s mindset is in the present, Baker believes with those terms being associated with the team, they have a chance to change the history of the program.

“The last time that the team was in a Final 16 was a long, long, long time ago,” Baker said. “If they can accomplish something like that and move on from there, they can really change the history of the program so it’s not just persevering and getting through some adversity, it’s actually accomplishing results that haven’t been done in over a decade.”

How will they approach their game against Salve Regina University? Baker believes that any team that they play turns back to them.

“We have to play our game, we have to play our system, we have to trust the coaching, we have to go all out, we have to keep a team-first mentality,” Baker said. “If we do all that and we do it to the best of our ability, it’s not going to matter too much who our opponent is so we really don’t put too much time into the opponent. We’ve beaten great teams and lost to very average teams so we know it has way more to do with our approach to it than who’s on the other side of the field.”

Rowan will travel to Fredericksburg, V.A. to play Salve Regina University in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m.

The winner will play the winner of University of Mary Washington vs. Keystone College.

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