Ryan Campbell’s hat trick against Stockton University on Saturday was the official seal of approval for Rowan to enter their fourth straight New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinal.
“I texted coach the morning of the game and told him I was taking over today,” Campbell said.
The men’s soccer team will travel to Montclair Wednesday night to take on the Red Hawks in the second round of the NJAC Championship Tournament.
“What’s different this time around, is that if we lose we’re done,” Campbell said. “We won’t have an NCAA Tournament game if we lose this one. We’re not done yet though. That’s how we feel as a group. But we’re excited to be able to keep playing. This game could be our last ever as seniors so let’s just go play and have high energy and have fun.”
In the previous three NJAC Semi-Finals appearances, Rowan lost only one of them, and that was to Montclair in 2015, where the Red Hawks beat the Profs 5-1. In 2016 and 2017, Rowan advanced to the NJAC Championship. Montclair stopped the Profs from getting revenge in 2016 by beating Rowan in the championship 3-0.
“I think we have what it takes this year,” head coach Scott Baker said. “We have the discipline now that I think we haven’t had in the past few years. Although we don’t have current momentum like we have in the past, I think we can overcome that.”
Rowan lost at Montclair 1-0 in their regular season matchup. However, Baker believes things have changed since the previous meeting.
“Having guys back from injury gives us a lot more confidence this time around,” Baker said. “We are playing more focused and together at this point of the season. Some of our guys are playing their best soccer, so when we put that together, we have a pretty great team. But we’re taking it one game at a time. Our goal at the start of the season was to win a conference title and a national title. Both are still possible. If we keep our focus I think we have a good chance.”
For a team like Rowan, with such a rich history in regards to success in men’s soccer, they expect to win both the conference and national title. Baker said it himself. However, Rowan hasn’t won the conference since 2003. In that time, Montclair have won the NJAC six times. Once again, Montclair stand in Rowan’s way. The rivalry between them is very real.
Rowan fell to Montclair, 4-3, on Tuesday night. Campbell scored Rowan’s first goal to tie it up at 1-1 with just over 30 minutes played in the contest. Less than a minute later, the Red Hawks scored on a Chaz Burnett penalty, which would bring Montclair into halftime with a 2-1 lead.
The Red Hawks then scored two goals in the span of just over four minutes in the second half to take a commanding 4-1 lead. Shane Doherty would cut the lead to two goals with his sixth of the year with a bit under 10 minutes to play. Campbell notched his second of the night and 17th of the season at the 84-minute mark, but it wouldn’t prove to be enough in the end.
The brown and gold end the 2018 season at 12-7, their worst finish since 2014 when they went 10-9.
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