CAMDEN, N.J. -- Given the bone-numbing cold that accompanied their NCAA quarterfinals men’s soccer game Sunday evening, nobody could blame the Rutgers -Camden Scarlet Raptors for trying to maintain warm thoughts.
Rutgers-Camden outlasted conference rival Montclair State 2-1 in a tense, hard-fought contest at the Rutgers-Camden Community Park, earning the Scarlet Raptors their first trip to the semifinals in program history.
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.
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 brought the ball forward and had a shot attempt blocked, with the ball falling to sophomore midfielder Connor Hurff. Hurff finished off his eighth goal of the season from 25 yards out only 3:47 into the contest.
Rutgers-Camden didn’t wait long to pad its lead. Only three minutes later, Hurff fed sophomore forward Mike Ryan 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 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 finally broke through on the scoreboard after freshman back Sean Pritchard was taken down during intense action in the box. Sophomore midfielder Lucas Terci 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, Matt Macey, Taylor McGrory and junior Eric Cutry weathered the Red Hawks’ second-half pressure, but it was a play by senior keeper Mike Randall 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 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 quarterfinals game, snapping its 40-game undefeated run.