Rowan men’s soccer has won their first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title since 2003 after taking down Montclair State University 3-0 on Saturday, Nov. 4. Thanks to the heroics of freshman Davide Caputo’s hat trick, the Profs have an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship Playoffs.
“Its amazing,” Head Coach Scott Baker said. “Feels awesome. These guys deserve it, we put ourselves in a bad spot and they just put ourselves in the best spot we’ve been in 30 years. Congratulations to them.”
The third time was the charm for the NJAC’s tournament’s third seed as they successfully avoided losing in the conference title game for the third year in a row.
The game was scoreless for much of the match until the 77th minute when Caputo scored his first goal in exactly two months, with his last one coming on Sept. 4 against Trinity University.
After an all-out attack strategy from the Red Hawks failed, Caputo took advantage of his one-on-one matchups, getting his second and third goals of the match to seal victory for the Profs.
“I played up almost my whole life, so I’m used to playing in big games like this for 90 minutes,” Caputo said. “In practice, we work on fitness so we have the energy — and it showed.”
Coach Baker could not think higher of his freshman star stepping up when they needed it.
“It’s kind of like what we’ve been saying all year. Davide [Caputo] is a stud and he’s been a stud all year,” Coach Baker said. “He hasn’t been scoring goals for us, but he’s been lighting it up in other ways for us. In the Trinity game, it wouldn’t have been 3-3 without him. Then, you see this performance and it’s obviously amazing but not surprising.”
Before the hat trick in the final 13 minutes of regulation, Montclair State was the one with most of the serious goal-scoring opportunities for most of the match, but couldn’t get it past the iron wall that is sophomore goalie Dylan “He’s Him” Aportela.
In a matchup between NJAC’s Goalkeeper of the year, Montclair’s Shane Keenan and NJAC Honorable Mention Aportela, Rowan’s goalie proved that the voters should take a second look at their ballots.
“It’s been crazy,” Aportela said. “The memories come right back from getting tossed onto the field in the second half [during Rowan’s 3-0 loss to Montclair on Oct. 8]. Second half I started in [the] net and kept the shutout since then. The team together feels so much better. We’ve gotten so much closer. Together, connective just everything has been through the roof.”
The support that Aportela’s teammates have for their starting goalie was made even more evident as they screamed the phrase “He’s Him” in the background while he said this.
Since that aforementioned 3-0 loss to their NJAC Championship opponents Montclair State back in October, the Profs have gone, regular season and NJAC playoffs combined, 6-0-2 and outscored their opponents 20-1.
Being able to wrap up the conference title on Montclairs’ home turf added an extra layer of ironic justice to this team’s journey.
Senior Captain Chad Yates, who was 0-2 in conference championship games coming into Friday, took a second to sit on the bench after the win trying to live in the moment for as long as possible.
“The only word I can say is, it is exciting. Especially with the way the season has gone, looking back at it now it was such a rollercoaster of a year,” Yates said. “No one really knew what was going on, we had a couple good results early in the year [and] took a big drop off. You know, dropping games left and right. To come here, shut them out and get a couple goals under our belt… it was a big tournament run.”
Yates continued harping on the must-see 2022 Rowan men’s soccer “revenge tour.”
“All the teams we beat [in the conference tournament], we got revenge on, which has been the mojo going through the tournament, get revenge,” Yates said. “NJCU embarrassed our team and probably the history of our program. We got a chance to get back at them and took them down. Ramapo, they were in the midst of our resurgence which they brought us back down a little with a tie at our place. Got revenge back at them. Then, Montclair was 3-0 earlier in the season and we get them back when it really matters. It’s full of emotion… you see the true passion come out in atmospheres like this everyone was bumping off the wall and it’s about time I got one of these.”
The Profs sought vengeance within the conference and executed the plan perfectly. However, with the conclusion of the NJAC playoffs, a new season is on the horizon: the NCAA Championship Playoffs.
The true champions of the NJAC earned an automatic to the big dance and will take on Middlebury College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship tournament at playoff host Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken NJ, on Saturday, Nov. 12. Coach Baker and Profs are relishing at the opportunity to continue this season as they prepare to take on the best teams in the nation.
“Having this group and our guys to have a chance to preform at the biggest stage and show who they are. The biggest thing for right now is that we are there and we’re building still,” Coach Baker said. “Especially with the season that we had, that appeared to be so up and down that they’re getting this opportunity.”
For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.