After a disappointing loss to the College of Staten Island two weeks ago, Jay Vandermark admitted that he did not feel the same energy as the games prior. He felt that it was important to take a loss like that to build and win the next game.
“It’s important for a good team to take a loss and it’s just going to fire us up even more,” Vandermark said. “We’re not losing again, like we are fighting with everything we have from that loss to get that next win.”
Their biggest test of the season before the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play was traveling to Chicago to play a weekend set against two ranked teams in Division III men’s soccer: now currently ranked #6, University of Chicago and #18, North Park University.
The end result was a 1-1 tie against Chicago and a 3-1 upset victory against North Park.
Vandermark scored two goals in the victory against North Park. Named the NJAC Men’s Soccer Rookie of the Week for the third straight week, he now has seven goals on the season.
Vandermark isn’t the only player on the team with an accolade this week. Senior captain Kevin Primich was named the NJAC Men’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week as he was recognized for his outstanding defensive play that help opponents to one goal apiece on the road trip.
Rowan is now 4-1-1 on the season and earned their first national ranking this season at #17.
“I think it could’ve been one of the greatest experiences that this team could have gotten the opportunity to do,” Vandermark said. “It definitely brought us together more because we were together the entire time. It’s just going to bring our chemistry even closer and closer together.”
Primich’s biggest takeaway from the weekend was that Rowan can compete with the best teams in the country.
“We went out there, we traveled all the way, we flew all the way out [to Chicago], we’re out there for four days,” Primich said. “It just proved to us, to ourselves, not to anyone else but to ourselves that we really are that good and we really can compete with the best teams in the country.”
Coach Scott Baker believes that the team can use the weekend as a way to build confidence as the season progresses.
“I think it was really important for us to prove to ourselves that we can play with the best teams in the country, that we can beat the best teams in the country, and we’re still pretty far away from being at our best so I think it gives our team a lot of confidence,” Baker said.
Before the NJAC play this weekend, they will play one more non-conference game with Haverford University on Wednesday.
Discipline will be a point of emphasis for the Brown and Gold in NJAC play. Baker feels confident in the team heading into the NJAC but preaches to his team to stay in the present.
“It’s just doing what we’ve done every single day the same way, keep a focus on what we’re working on, stay in [the] present, and working as hard as we possibly can,” Baker said. “That’s not going to change in the conference, it’s not going to change [against Haverford].”
For Vandermark, this will be his first ever experience playing against NJAC competition. He knows that the NJAC is on another level compared to teams that Rowan has played so far. This will be a feeling out process for him as he tries to use the first game this Saturday against William Paterson University to get an idea of the competition.
“I know that the NJAC is going to be a whole different ball game,” Vandermark said. “I was just talking about [the competition] with coach Baker. Kids are bigger, they’re fast, they’re strong, they go into tackles, they’ll go straight through you, and win the ball.”
For Primich, he knows what NJAC competition is like being a fifth-year senior. He knows the intensity and history behind the conference. He calls the level of play “ruthless.”
With the responsibility of guiding a young team into their first taste of conference play, he has a lot of confidence in the young talent but, like Baker, discipline is going to be the key factor in winning those important conference games.
“They’re going to kill it, they’re going to love it,” Primich said. “If anything, we have to dial [back the aggressiveness], so it’s like we’re going to have to hold them back a little bit because they’re just animals, like complete animals and they just want it so bad. They want to win so badly but that sometimes gets the better of us so if anything, it’s just we have to dial it back. We have more intensity and more energy than anyone we’ve played so far but we turn it on.”
Rowan, currently ranked #17, will open up NJAC play this Saturday at 1 p.m. as they travel to Wayne, New Jersey to play William Paterson University concluding their four-game road trip.
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