Montclair St. strikes early, holds on
Christensen scores two goals to push Red Hawks to quarterfinals
AMHERST, Mass. – Senior midfielder Jon Christensen netted a pair of goals including the game winner in the 81st minute to propel Montclair State to a 2-1 win against Neumann in an NCAA sectional semifinal hosted by Amherst College on Hitchcock Field.
Montclair improved to 18-3-3 overall and will face Stevens Institute in the next round in an All-New Jersey final. The game will also be a rematch of a 2009 second-round match between the teams won by Ducks 4-0 as they snapped MSU's NCAA record 45-match home winning streak. It will be Montclair State's second national quarterfinals appearance. The Red Hawks fell to Messiah 1-0 in the same round in the 2007 NCAA tournament in Grantham, Pa.
Neumann closed out its season with a 14-5-1 record.
Hoping to get off to a fast start, Christensen played a through-ball to the right side in search of senior Kevin Zalewski. Taking a couple of quick touches, Zalewski feed the ball back across the face of the goal into the path of a charging Christensen, who slotted the game’s first tally into the left side of the net just 1:10 after the opening whistle.
Looking to respond, the Knights won a free-kick just above the Montclair State 18-yard box less than three minutes later, but the Red Hawk wall blocked down senior Andrew Leissing’s try to quell the Neumann threat.
Still holding onto a 1-0 lead with more than 20 minutes remaining in the first, Christensen generated another Montclair State scoring opportunity, making a run down the left side before playing a cross into the middle of the box. Tracking down the pass, sophomore Dan Mendoza footed a volley toward goal but the shot veered just wide left, keeping Neumann within one.
The Red Hawks later won a pair of corners with just over five minutes left in the first, putting a pair of headers wide of net to settle for a 1-0 margin heading into the intermission.
Trying to set the tone coming off out of the break, Christensen headed the frame’s first shot wide left just 58 seconds into the second. Pushing forward with more than 25 minutes left on the clock, Neumann junior Andy Attah ripped consecutive shots in hopes of netting the equalizer but the Montclair backline blocked down both tries to preserve their one goal edge.
Going on the offensive moments later, Mendoza led a Red Hawk counter, finding Zalewski with a long through-ball from the midfield. In alone on goal, Zalewski lifted a chip shot over on-coming goalkeeper Bob Mastrillo but the attempt sailed high, narrowly missing a chance to extend the Montclair cushion.
Still searching for their first tally, Neumann played the ball to Attah on the right side of the Red Hawk box in the 71st minute. Looking to goal, the junior slotted a pass to Leissing, who calmly slide his 18th marker of the season into the Montclair net, suddenly pulling Neumann even at 70:35.
Hoping to change the momentum, Montclair State moved into the attacking third with more than 10 minutes to play in regulation. Winning a corner at the far right flag, first-year Maxx Wurzberger played a cross into the middle of the box. Winning the ball in the air, Christensen headed the go-ahead goal into the upper left corner to put the Red Hawks back on top.
Neumann pushed forward in the final two minutes, putting a header on net with 2:04 left on the clock but Montclair senior goalkeeper Anthony Rogic made the stop to seal the Red Hawk win.
Montclair finished with a 14-12 shot advantage and a 6-1 edge in corners. Rogic made four saves en route to his 18th win.