Rutgers-Camden advances to Final Four
CAMDEN, N.J. (Nov. 24, 2013) – Given the bone-numbing cold that accompanied their NCAA Elite Eight men’s soccer playoff game here Sunday evening, nobody could blame the Rutgers University-Camden Scarlet Raptors for trying to maintain warm thoughts.
A trip to San Antonio, Texas, in December will do quite nicely.
Rutgers-Camden outlasted conference rival Montclair State University, 2-1, in a tense, hard-fought contest at the Rutgers-Camden Community Park, earning the Scarlet Raptors their first trip to the NCAA Final Four in program history. The Final Four will be held in San Antonio, Dec. 6-7.
The Scarlet Raptors grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the first half and weathered a determined Montclair State comeback to punch their ticket to the national semifinals. They will battle Loras College at 6 p.m. on Dec. 6. in the first semifinal game. The second game will pit Williams College against defending national champion Messiah College.
With both teams and spectators battling temperatures in the low 20s, the action between the two New Jersey Athletic Conference teams heated up quickly on the field. After surviving an opening surge by the Red Hawks, Rutgers-Camden countered on the attack when senior midfielder Forrest Bennfors (Woking, England/Madison) brought the ball forward and had a shot attempt blocked, with the ball falling to sophomore midfielder Connor Hurff (Sewell, NJ/St. Augustine Prep). Hurff finished off his eighth goal of the season from 25 yards out only 3:47 into the contest.
Rutgers-Camden, which was ranked No. 2 nationally in the final regular-season D3soccer.com Top 25 and No. 3 in the NSCAA poll, didn’t wait long to pad its lead. Only three minutes later, Hurff fed sophomore forward Mike Ryan (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) for a shot from practically the same spot, and Ryan drilled in his team-leading 21st goal of the season. The goal turned out to be his ninth game-winning tally of the year, tying the program record set by teammate Mitch Grotti (Milmay, NJ/Millville) in 2011, and also gave Ryan 46 points on the season, one more than Grotti’s mark also set in 2011.
The Scarlet Raptors out-shot the Red Hawks, 14-9, in the opening half, but Montclair State stepped up the attack in the final 45 minutes as the intensity increased. The Red Hawks, ranked 13th in the final regular-season D3soccer.com poll and No. 22 in the NSCAA Top 25, finally broke through on the scoreboard after freshman back Sean Pritchard (Ramsey, NJ/Ramsey) was taken down during intense action in the box. Sophomore midfielder Lucas Terci (Union, NJ/Union) took the resulting penalty kick and scored his team-leading 12th goal, cutting the gap to 2-1 with 25:20 remaining in the game.
Rutgers-Camden’s back four of seniors Bobby Foster (Burlington, NJ/Burlington Township), Matt Macey (Bridgeton, NJ/St. Augustine Prep), Taylor McGrory (Collingswood, NJ/Sterling) and junior Eric Cutry (Medford Lakes, NJ/Shawnee) weathered the Red Hawks’ second-half pressure, but it was a play by senior keeper Mike Randall (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) that denied the tying goal. With 7:30 remaining in the contest, the dangerous Terci got free in the box for a point-blank one-on-one shot that Randall somehow was able to bat clear of the net, saving a certain goal.
Rutgers-Camden finished with a slim 20-19 advantage in shots for the game – the Red Hawks held a 10-6 margin in the second half – and Montclair State took one more corner kick, 6-5. Randall finished with five saves, while Montclair State junior keeper Kevin Lynch (Cinnaminson, NJ/Cinnaminson) had three.
Montclair State closes its season with a 17-4-3 record.
Rutgers-Camden improved to 22-0-2 and extended its two-year unbeaten streak to 36 games (31-0-5). It is the longest current streak in the nation after Amherst was eliminated in its Elite Eight game, snapping its 40-game undefeated run.