After a first-round bye in the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs, the Rowan men’s soccer team faced off against a familiar rival — The College of New Jersey.
The brown and gold first defeated the Lions in Ewing, New Jersey, on Oct. 26 by the score of 3-1. Their most recent matchup in Glassboro on Tuesday, however, was a much tighter affair, resulting in a 1-0 final.
From the start, TCNJ came out with speed and aggression that the Profs were not expecting. The brown and gold struggled in the first half to establish an advantage over the Lions and found themselves in a stalemate after 45 minutes of action.
“I think we’re a physical and fit team. It wasn’t our plan to have them come at us as much as they did,” head coach Scott Baker said. “They are a real good team. We are lucky to be where we are and we have to attack and be our old selves. We let them take it to us in the first half.”
There were some opportunities that were missed early on, but the Profs never stopped taking shots, totaling five in the first half.
Like many of the games this year, it took every player on the field to secure a positive outcome.
Led by newly-crowned NJAC Defensive Player of the Year Will Sjaastad and sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Dennis, the brown and gold put together their eighth shutout of the season. Dennis, who received NJAC All-Conference Honorable Mention earlier in the day, showed why he was selected by securing four saves on seven shots.
Freshman midfielder Pete Hall was a starter for the Profs in nine games this year, but he started coming off the bench towards the end of the regular season. In Tuesday night’s game, Hall was a major contributor and applied heavy pressure on the TCNJ defense.
“We had a little bit of trouble finishing the final third, but everything was perfect from the back, to the midfield, to the forwards, and we just had a little trouble executing,” Hall said.
The brown and gold kept going right at the teeth of the Lion defense in the second half, totaling 10 shots. With six minutes and 38 seconds left in the game, they finally broke through with shot off of a rebound coming from sophomore forward Shane Doherty.
“It was awesome,” Doherty said. “Everyone was working so hard and it feels great to get that goal because our team deserved it.”
TCNJ had posed problems for Rowan in the past, and Tuesday night’s game showed to be no different.
“It was hard going against a team that already knows how you play,” Hall said. “So we kept pushing and came out with a goal.”
The Profs will square off with Montclair State University on Friday at 7 p.m. to decide the conference champion.
Montclair downed Rowan, 5-1, in the semifinals last year, but the Profs defeated the Redhawks, 4-3, earlier this season on Oct. 8.
“If you told me in the beginning of the season we would be where we are right now, I’d be super happy,” Baker said. “It is all on these guys and their hard work and they are bringing the program back to where it was. It’s awesome.”
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