Montclair, NJ (10/29/08) – Sophomore defender Thomas Benack (Sparta, NJ / Lenape Valley) scored the tying goal and then assisted on the game-winning tally as third-ranked Montclair State capped off just the sixth undefeated regular-season in athletic history and its second unbeaten NJAC slate in three years with a 2-1 victory over New Jersey City University at Sprague Field on Wednesday evening.
Junior Joseph Cullen ( Clementon, NJ / Highland) scored the winning goal with 18:10 remaining as the Red Hawks closed out their regular-season schedule at 18-0-0. Head coach Brian Sentowski’s group joined four football squads (1947, 1960, 1964, 1982) and the 1989 men’s lacrosse team as the only teams in MSU athletic history to go through their schedule without a loss. Montclair also matched its 2006 squad as the only teams in program history to go undefeated and untied in conference play (9-0-0).
The Red Hawks, the two-time defending conference champions, will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament which gets underway on November 1. MSU earns a first-round bye in the tournament and takes on the either No. 5 seed TCNJ or No. 4 seed William Paterson in the semifinals at Sprague Field on Tuesday, November 4 at 7:30 pm.
Travis Mckoy ( Maplewood, NJ / Columbia) scored once for New Jersey City (10-5-2, 4-4-1 NJAC) which dropped its second straight, and fell into the No. 6 spot for the upcoming NJAC Tournament. Sixth-seeded NJCU will face No. 3 seed Rutgers-Camden in the opening round of the tournament at Community Park in Camden on Saturday. Last Sunday, the Gothic Knights fell to the Scarlet Raptors, 3-0.
In what would be another outstanding match between two of the league’s most successful teams over the last several seasons, MSU and NJCU played through a scoreless first half. The Knights outshot Montclair, 5-3 in the opening 45 minutes, however Red Hawks goalkeeper Nick Mele (Delran, NJ / Delran) made three saves, including two early stops against Edison Bilbao (Carteret, NJ / St. Benedict’s Prep). Meanwhile NJCU netminder Andre Viola ( Clifton, NJ / St. Joseph’s (Montvale)) helped keep Montclair off the board with one save while his defense came up with a huge team save at the 22:56 mark.
In the second half, Mckoy would get the Knights on the board with his eighth goal of the season off an assist from Gonzalo Dapia ( Kearny, NJ / Kearny) at 50:52. But that lead would last just seven minutes as Benack banged home a header from John Esposito ( Hillside, NJ / Hillside) for his second goal of the year and a 1-1 tie with 31:54 to play.
Each team would get off a shot over the next 13 minutes before Montclair would come up with the game-winner. Benack set up Cullen for the latter’s sixth goal of the season and his fourth game-winning score at the 71:50 mark.
Moments after the go-ahead goal, NJCU would get a chance however Mele denied Cristhian Acuna’s ( East Newark, NJ / Harrison) shot, one of four by Mele in the contest.
Viola finished with two saves as Montclair State led in shots, 9-8 while collecting seven corner kicks to NJCU’s two.