EWING – Sophomore Abner Denis scored the game-winner in double-overtime to lift the sixth-seeded Cougars to a 1-0 win over top-seeded The College of New Jersey to capture the New Jersey Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Championship on Friday evening.
The Cougars knocked off the top three seeds of the tournament en-route to capturing the program’s ninth NJAC Championship and first since 1998 when the Cougars won the second of back-to-back titles. Kean, who also becomes the first sixth seed to capture a NJAC Championship in any sport, also earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer tournament, marking the Cougars’ first appearance in the tournament for the first time since 2001.
On the game-winning score, sophomore Tiago Goetzke took a pass on the right side from sophomore Guilherme Argollo, where TCNJ goalkeeper Adam Friedman came up and forced Goetzke to the outside. The sophomore, who has seven game-winning goals to his credit this season, maintained control and found a streaking Denis, who knocked in the shot from 12-yards out into the open left-side of the net at 102:25 to give the Cougars the NJAC title.
TCNJ held the 17-6 advantage in shots, with Kean rookie goalkeeper Tyler Callahan making four saves for the Cougars. The rookie made a key save in the first overtime period when TCNJ immediately went on the offensive attack and Callahan was able to tip the header from sophomore Ryan O’Donnell just over the crossbar.
The Lions controlled a majority of the opening half, holding an 8-1 edge in shots in the first half. TCNJ had one of its best scoring chances late in the half, when senior Mike Razzoli ripped a shot that was partially block and then ultimately saved by Callahan to preserve the scoreless tie at the break.
Kean’s lone shot of the first half was a scoring opportunity, as sophomore Kharee Winslow found himself on the left side of the goal with an open net, however his shot sailed wide.
In his 35th season, Kean Head Coach Tony Ochrimenko has been a part of all nine conference championships, first as a player on the program’s first NJAC Championship in 1973, before coaching the Cougars to the other eight.
Kean now awaits the announcement of the NCAA Division III tournament field on Monday, November 8, at 2 p.m.
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