By Miguel Gonzalez
After reaching the conference semifinals last season, the men’s soccer team hopes to contend for a New Jersey Athletic Conference title this season. The Lions are ranked sixth in the annual NJAC Men’s Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll.
Senior forward Michael Kassak and senior midfielder Peter Dresch will strive to increase the Lion’s offensive output. With last year’s best three scorers graduated, the Lions will feature new stars to the offense. Junior midfielder Nick Sample looks to supply more assists to junior midfielder Joerg Jauk, sophomore forward Mateo Panizza and junior midfielder Aaron Conyer.
Meanwhile, junior goalkeeper Dan Walsh leads a more experienced defense with the defensive duo of junior defender Nick Provenzano and sophomore defender Matt Decker. The Lions look to maintain their rigid defense that only allowed 1.5 goals per game last season. Last season, the majority of the team’s losses were by one goal. In addition, the team endured four shutouts.
“We have a ton of talent this year,” Kassak said. “We only lost four starters last year and our returning players are very experienced. A lot of the returners have been significant contributors since their freshman year and have experience in big games like the NJAC playoffs.”
The Lions will compete against formidable conference foes. Rowan University returns as the reigning conference champion. Meanwhile, Rutgers University-Newark features a battle-tested roster who reached the fourth round of the 2016 NCAA tournament last year.
“The NJAC is one of the most competitive, if not, the most competitive conferences in the country, having four teams make it to NCAA’s last year,” Kassak said. “The team plans on advancing further in the tournament by taking the season one game at a time. You can’t count any teams out or take any games off to compete in this conference. We have a lot of returners and have had great camaraderie in the past.”
The Lions will open their season at Frostburg State University on Friday, Sept. 1. The team is scheduled to play their first home match against Stevens Institute of Technology on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Lions Stadium. The team’s first conference match is set against William Paterson University on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Soccer Complex.
“We plan to leverage that team chemistry again this year along with our returning and incoming talent to take us far in the NJAC and NCAA’s,” Kassak said. “We will surprise a lot of teams this year and we expect to compete for the NJAC championship.”