After beating the Kean University Cougars 1-0 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinal game, Rowan Men’s Soccer was set up for a rematch of last year’s NJAC Championship, with a meeting on the road against the No. 5 ranked Montclair State Red Hawks on Saturday, Nov. 4.
However, unlike last year, the Profs were unable to come away with the victory, as they fell to the Red Hawks by a score of 4-2. This sent Montclair State right into the NCAA Division III tournament and gave Rowan its third Championship loss in the last four years.
For the first time since 2018, the Profs will not be a part of the NCAA tournament as they didn’t get an at-large bid, which was something they received twice over the last three seasons.
“It sucks to know that our season is over because we feel like we belong in the NCAAs. The beginning of the season looking back is what we wished we could change overall but we didn’t lose a game for a while,” midfielder Johnny Troiano said.
The Profs got on the board first after sophomore forward Emiliano Pavia found the back of the net during the 28th minute of play. This would be the only scoring action of the half, as Rowan and goalie Charlie Scanlon did a great job of shutting down the NJAC Offensive Player of the Year and Division III leading goal scorer, Amer Lukovic, whenever he got inside the box.
The Red Hawks wouldn’t stay quiet for long though, as they scored the first of their four second-half goals after defenseman Enir Radoncic found the back of the net just five minutes into the half. The goal was assisted by Lukovic, who started to heat up from that point on.
Less than 90 seconds later, Lukovic scored the first of his two goals, and 28th on the year, after sneaking a ball past Scanlon to put Montclair State ahead.
Then in the closing seconds of the 60th minute, the Red Hawks added on to their lead with a strike from Reed Karsen. Rowan didn’t lay over though, as they were able to cut Montclair’s lead down to just one after Pavia scored his second goal of the night in the 75th minute.
Lukovic proved to be too much however, as he netted a second chance deflection to put Montclair State back up by two with a little less than three minutes to go, essentially icing the game and giving the Red Hawks their first NJAC Championship since 2019.
“As a whole, second chance scores inside the 18 are the hardest to stop and Charlie [Scanlon] did a great job but when a team gets so many tries eventually a couple will go in,” Pavia said. “The reality is coming out of halftime we were 45 minutes away from being back-to-back NJAC Champions, but they got hot at the right time and they proved why they are the fifth-ranked team.”
The Profs ended the season with a 9-4-5 record. After drawing in four of their first five games, including a 1-1 tie against the No. 6 ranked SUNY Cortland back on Sept. 23, Rowan rattled off a bunch of wins, including five consecutive on their way to another Championship appearance.
“It’s extremely frustrating to lose that game when, in the first half, we were the better team, especially with our execution against their attackers,” Head Coach Scott Baker said. “This team is better than what the record says and I know what we could have done if we had made the tournament, but we are not so we gotta move on and look ahead to next season.”
Coach Baker talked about the future of this team and guaranteed that this team will be back with a chance for the NJAC title once again next season.
“This team will be back and I am 100 percent confident in that statement. We have been in the NJAC Championship the last four seasons and we look to make it five next year,” Baker said. “A few of our players are graduating but a lot of our starters are returning next season which gives us a good feeling heading into next September.”