The Montclair State football and men’s soccer teams capped off another outstanding fall season as both teams reached the second round of their respective NCAA Division III Championship tournaments.
The Red Hawks football squad reached the postseason for the fourth consecutive campaign as Montclair advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs for the second straight year. MSU ended the season at 10-2, tying the single-season record for victories while also reaching double digits in wins for the second consecutive season and fifth time in program history.
Montclair State began the year with seven straight wins and was ranked as high as No. 13 by both the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D3Football.com. The Red Hawks registered their second straight undefeated campaign at home (5-0) and ran its New Jersey Athletic Conference winning streak to 15 games.
After suffering a one-point loss to Cortland on November 30, Montclair rebounded to win its final two contests, including a 21-8 win over local rival William Paterson that not only put the Red Hawks at 9-1, but it gave head coach Rick Giancola his 200th career victory. Giancola, in his 28th season, became the seventh coach in athletic history to amass that many wins as he joined baseball coaches, Bill Dioguardi and Norm Schoenig, softball coaches Anita Kubicka and Wima Rucker; men’s basketball coach Ollie Gelston and wrestling mentor Steve Strellner as the only coaches to collect that number of victories.
The win over William Paterson also gave Montclair State a share of the NJAC Championship for the second straight year and 19th time overall. MSU was then selected as one of the six at-large teams for the NCAA Playoffs and in an ironic twist the Red Hawks were matched against Hampden-Sydney College, who Montclair State had defeated 40 years earlier, 7-6 in the NCAA Knute Rockne Bowl in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall .
Like it did in 1970, Montclair defeated Hampden-Sydney again this time 16-14 as Andrey Green (East Orange, NJ / East Orange) batted away a two-point conversion pass to preserve the win. The result would be eerily similar to the 1970 Rockne Bowl win when John Brunelli deflected away a two-point conversion attempt that was intercepted by Alex Kaplanovich.
Montclair’s outstanding season would end in the second round as the Red Hawks fell to No. 1 overall seed Wesley College. The appearance in the NCAA Division III Playoffs was Montclair State’s 10th overall and fifth in the last 11 seasons.
Montclair State also took home several of the NJAC’s top honors as junior quarterback Tom Fischer (Livingston, NJ / Livingston) was named the Co-Offensive Player of the Year while junior Dan Keegan (Fairfield, NJ / West Essex) was selected Special Teams Player of the Year. Freshman linebacker Dan Avento (Montvale, NJ / Pascack Hills) was named Defensive Rookie of the Year and Giancola collected his second straight Coach of the Year honor. A total of 15 players were named to the All-NJAC squad.
Meanwhile the Red Hawk men’s soccer team continued its impressive run of successful seasons as Montclair posted 14-5-3 mark, the fifth straight year that MSU has won 14 or more contests.
The four-time NJAC champions battled against the toughest of schedules in 2010, including a 1-0 victory over eighth-ranked Whitworth (WA) in the Mayor’s Cup Classic at Oneonta State as freshman Dan Mendoza (Hackensack, NJ / Hackensack) scored midway through the second half.
Montclair State would fall short in its bid for a fifth consecutive conference title however the Red Hawks battled through to the end. After topping Richard Stockton, 3-1 in the opening round of the NJAC Tournament, it would take penalty kicks to end Montclair State’s run as The College of New Jersey downed the Red Hawks in the semifinals.
But Montclair’s strength of schedule, plus its solid record easily made MSU one of 17 at-large teams selected to the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship. It was the Red Hawks’ fifth consecutive trip and 11th overall.
Montclair State drew New York Maritime in the opening round at Sprague Field and dominated the contest outshooting the Mariners 30-3. Despite its tremendous advantage in shots, it wasn’t until the second half that the Red Hawks found the back of the net as freshman Matt Slattery (Newtown, CT / Newtown) scored the first of three second-half goals as the Red Hawks rolled into the second round with a 3-0 victory.
Next up for MSU was two-time defending and seven-time national champion Messiah College, a team that had allowed just eight goals through its first 19 games. But after falling behind 1-0 in the first half, the Red Hawks would put a goal on the board in the second half as sophomore Kevin Zalewski (Parsippany, NJ / Parsippany) scored forcing overtime. But the Red Hawks’ run ended in the extra period as the Falcons went on to the 2-1 win.
Montclair would place five players on the All-NJAC squad led by senior Mike Krol (Howell, NJ / Howell), who was selected to the First Team for the second straight year. Mendoza and sophomore Will O’Connor (Wyckoff, NJ / Ramapo) were named to the Second Team while senior Coron Short (East Brunswick, NJ / East Brunswick) and goalkeeper Anthony Rogic (Boonton, NJ / Morris Catholic) were selected Honorable Mention.