Raptors roll into Sweet 16
CAMDEN, N.J. (Nov. 17, 2013) – A first-round bye in the NCAA Div. III Men’s Soccer Championship didn’t cool off the nationally-ranked Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors – it only served to rejuvenate and motivate them.
Rutgers-Camden took out that focus on Lycoming College in a second-round game here Sunday afternoon as the Scarlet Raptors moved into the Sweet 16 with a convincing 4-0 record-filled victory.
The Scarlet Raptors, ranked No. 2 nationally in the D3soccer.com Top 25 and No. 3 in the NSCAA poll, improve to 20-0-2 and earn their second berth in the Sweet 16 in three years. They will take a 34-game unbeaten streak (29-0-5) into next weekend’s game at a site to be determined late Sunday or Monday. Rutgers-Camden has a good chance to host the four-team event next weekend and will play the winner of tonight’s Stevens Institute of Technology vs. York (PA) College game.
Lycoming College, which had rolled off five consecutive shutouts on its way to the Commonwealth Conference title and a first-round NCAA victory over King’s College, ends its season at 11-8-4. It was the Warriors’ first trip to the NCAA tournament in program history.
Lycoming’s stingy defense entered the game with 538 consecutive shutout minutes, but Rutgers-Camden applied constant pressure in the first half, outshooting the Warriors, 18-4. By halftime, the Scarlet Raptors held a 3-0 lead – scoring as many goals in the opening 45 minutes as Lycoming had allowed in a game all season long.
The Raptors notched the only goal they needed at 10:36 following a foul just outside the box. Senior midfielder Keegan Balle (Naperville, IL/Neuqua Valley) took the restart and drilled a low shot that was blocked by Lycoming junior goalie Connor Keenan (Exton, PA/Downingtown East). The shot, too hot to handle, bounded into a crowd in the goal mouth and was eventually finished at the right post by senior back Bobby Foster (Burlington, NJ/Burlington Township). It was Foster’s third goal of the season – all of them game winners.
Thirteen minutes later, following a corner kick, the ball was cleared out to sophomore midfielder Connor Hurff (Sewell, NJ/St. Augustine Prep). Hurff, who played a stellar all-around game in the midfield, drilled a 25-yard shot into the net for his seventh goal of the year.
Freshman midfielder/forward Juan Rojas (Piscataway, NJ/Piscataway) made it a 3-0 game on a play that developed off another corner kick. He headed in a feed from Hurff at 36:00 for his second goal of the season.
Rutgers-Camden tacked on its final goal at 64:18 of the second half when Balle assisted on the 20th goal of the season by sophomore forward Mike Ryan (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee). Ryan’s 20th goal set a new single-season program record, breaking the tie he shared with senior teammate Mitch Grotti (Milmay, NJ/Millville), who accomplished the feat in 2011.
Grotti, meanwhile, played another fine game in the midfield – his 89th contest at Rutgers-Camden to tie the program career record set by current Assistant Coach Tim VanLiew, who was the Raptors’ goalie from 2008-11.
Senior goalie Mike Randall (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) also jumped into the record-setting parade. With eight saves, he notched his 12th shutout of the season to set a new mark for keepers, breaking the tie he shared with VanLiew (2011) and Jim Skene (1981). His 20th win of the season also broke VanLiew’s 2011 record.
The Raptors also set numerous marks as a team, notching their 20th victory (the old mark was 19 in 2011) and raising their totals to 61 goals (58, 2005) and 166 points (163, 2005). With their 12th shutout as a team (all Randall’s), they tied the team mark set in 1981.
Rutgers-Camden finished with a 30-10 advantage in shots and a 6-1 lead in corner kicks. Keenan made five saves in 83:57 minutes of playing time for the Warriors, who also had a backsave. Freshman Josh Gildea (Center Valley, PA/Southern Lehigh) played the final 6:03 for Lycoming without needing to make a save.
Randall, who has played all 2:023:25 in goal for the Scarlet Raptors this season, made eight saves as the Warriors put eight of their 10 shots on goal. His best save came in the final 11 minutes when he made a stellar stop off a header by freshman forward/midfielder Mike Amaya (Stockton, NJ/Hunterdon Central Regional).