Last year’s record and this year’s record for the Rowan men’s soccer team, on paper, will tell you they’ve had similar seasons. That couldn’t be more wrong.
The team had a total culture change this season, bringing in pieces all around the board to ensure success in every level. Junior Ryan Campbell transferred over from Ramapo College and has become a scoring machine, tallying 10 goals on the year. Junior Shane Doherty has followed up his superb 2016 season with 12 goals and seven assists in 2017. Sophomore Matt Hendrickson transferred from Montclair State University and has put up 10 goals this year, six of which have been game winners. Now, the team is on their way to another New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament.
“The mindset has been there,” said junior goalkeeper Erik Checkur. “We have the talent and what we need to succeed, and it’s just the mindset you need to have to be here. It was something we lacked in the beginning of the season but as it’s gone on, we’ve started to find ourselves.”
Checkur transferred this year from Sussex County Community College and has been dominant in the 11 games he’s seen time in this year. But, with new faces, shoes to fill and roles to be set, there is some adjusting and molding together that needs to be done.
“It took a couple of weeks [to get adjusted]. As people, we blended together because we have such a great group of guys here. That happened within the first week or two. Our play started to come together as we started to have our first few games, maybe a month,” he said.
The whole season has been great, but the bar yet to be reached. The previous two seasons have been heartbreakers for the men’s team, as they’ve fallen in the NJAC Tournament twice after posting stellar seasons. Now, though, the Profs are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
“I feel like we are hitting our peek,” said head coach Scott Baker. “Last year, I feel like we hit that right before this time. We had a little bump in the road at Ramapo, but it’s not because we are coming down. It’s the exact opposite. I think we are going to look even better than we have the rest of the way.”
Rowan closed their season out Wednesday night with a 8-2 win against The College of New Jersey. They have now secured the first seed in the NJAC Championship playoffs, getting the luxury of home field advantage for the postseason.
“Every game is huge. The rankings are important for home field advantage and to just get in. We need to set a platform pretty high for ourselves for the postseason and this is our last chance to do it, so this is the most important game of the year,” Baker said.
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