Rowan men’s soccer hosts first and second rounds of NCAA tournament

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For the second consecutive year, the No. 9 ranked Rowan University men’s soccer team will bring their dancing shoes out of the box in the closet.

On Nov. 7 the team found out that they were selected as one of the 62 teams in the Division III national tournament.

The selection does not come as a surprise.

The brown and gold put together an impressive year, finishing with a regular season record of 16-2-1. According to head coach Scott Baker, this success has been in the works for a couple of years.

“We had a really good recruiting class come in my first year, but unfortunately we weren’t talented enough. We were young, we had too many freshmen on the field and we didn’t make the tournament that year,” Baker said. “Last year we knew with another recruiting class, and the first class being a year older, we’d be much closer to the level we feel we need to be at. This year, being another year older and another recruiting class, we’re excited and all expecting positive results from the players coming in.”

It is hard to argue Baker is wrong with his statements. Since he took over as head coach before the 2014 season, the Profs are 42-17-1. In contests played in Glassboro, the team is 23-7. Since they are hosting the first two rounds of the national tournament, those numbers loom large.

For some, having the men’s soccer team hosting came as a surprise since they didn’t win the New Jersey Athletic Conference. However, Baker was not one of those people.

“It was not a surprise. The NCAA looks at strength of schedule and they look at your winning percentage,” Baker said. “We have a top three or four strength of schedule and one of the best records in the country. I know some people look at the NJAC tournament, but that’s not what the NCAA sees.”

Baker added the team is very excited they do not need to travel and they are comfortable on their home field.

The brown and gold will be matching up against Lehman College in the first round. The last time the two teams met up was in 2014 when Rowan defeated Lehman 7-1. Three players on the current team, Jake Conners, Travis Ward and Shane Patterson, scored during the contest.

This year the teams had four common opponents: New Jersey City University (NJCU), Brooklyn College, John Jay College and College of Staten Island.

Rowan won those four games by a combined score of 25-3. Lehman beat John Jay and Staten Island, but lost and tied to NJCU and Brooklyn respectively.

“We feel we’re the stronger side,” Baker said. “There’s no doubt about that, but that doesn’t always win soccer games. We need to come out and be at our best.”

To be at their best, the Profs have to find the back of the net.

In the NJAC Championship game against Montclair State, the brown and gold were shut out despite taking 29 shots. In a win-or-go-home situation like the one the team is in, there is an even greater emphasis put on scoring.

“I don’t think we’ve stepped on the field this year one time without thinking, ‘We need to win this game,'” Baker said. “We started this year thinking that every game was an opportunity to get ready for the postseason.”

The men’s soccer team plays Lehman College at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

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