Rowan Men’s Soccer knock out NJCU in first round of NJAC playoffs

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Chad Yates celebrates after a goal. Yates scored the winning goal against NJCU in the first round of the NJAC Championship Tournament. Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2022. - Photo / Dom Francesconi via Rowan Athletics

The Rowan men’s soccer team entered their first-round matchup of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament against New Jersey City University (NJCU) on Saturday, Oct. 29, with more than just “survive and advance” on their minds.

For the Profs, it was about redemption, because despite being the higher seed, it was the Gothic Knights who went into this game with the regular season advantage. A little more than a month prior, NJCU handed Rowan their worst loss of the year with a 6-0 shutout in Jersey City.

In the end, Rowan got their revenge, defeating NJCU 1-0, and subsequently ending the Gothic Knights’ season. 

“We knew it was redemption for us,” senior captain Chad Yates said. “This program was kind of embarrassed after that loss that we had, so we just came out here, we knew it was bigger than just a playoff game, we had something to show these guys, we took care of business.”

It was Yates who sent NJCU packing, as his goal 69 minutes into the match was the lone one of the night.

“First half I got robbed a couple times, a couple bad shots on my end but I was seeing some opportunities,” Yates said. “Second half, tied 0-0 in a playoff game, I live for these moments. The team we were fighting, we knew we were going to get one, it was just a matter of time.”

In the first half of the game, it was all Rowan as the Profs were able to get off ten shots while holding the Gothic Knights to five. Getting out of the first 45 minutes clean was big for the Profs’ defense since that’s when NJCU put up four of their six goals in the last matchup.

“I would just say that me and Mason [Martelloni], we didn’t have that chemistry back then,” junior back Ryan Cleary said. “Now, when you’re playing on your home field in front of your fans, it just gives you that extra boost and we knew what they were going to do coming into the game, so we had our game plan set up and we made it work.”

One of the biggest changes made since last September was sophomore goalkeeper Dylan Aportela being promoted to the team’s starting goalie role. Aportela, who at one point was the Profs’ fourth string, has now racked up his sixth consecutive shutout, recording five saves this time against NJCU.

“He [Aportela] obviously gets all the credit,” Head Coach Scott Baker said. “Whatever he’s bringing is getting us wins, it’s getting us shutouts and we’re picking up momentum and we’re doing it because of him.”

With the Gothic Knights and the ghost of blowout losses now behind them, the Profs shift gears as they hit the road to face the NJAC’s second seed, Ramapo College in the semifinals.

“There’s nothing really better,” Cleary said. “It was probably the most embarrassing loss so we had a full head of steam coming in and it just feels great… just moving on and ready for the next one.”

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