Montclair, NJ (11/7/09) – Senior defender Will Griffin (Bloomfield, NJ / St. Peter’s Prep) headed in a throw-in from junior Mike Krol (Howell, NJ / Howell) in the 16th minute which turned out to be all ninth-ranked Montclair State would need as the Red Hawks turned their three-peat championship into a four-peat as top-seeded MSU blanked No. 3 seed Rowan University to capture the New Jersey Athletic Conference title at Sprague Field on Saturday evening.

Senior goalkeeper Teddy Ritter (Belford, NJ / Middletown North) made six saves and recorded his sixth shutout of the season as MSU (17-1-2) became the first team in 21 years to win four consecutive NJAC titles and the first to accomplish the feat in era of the NJAC Tournament, which began in 1999. Montclair State also earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament with the win as it also made head coach Brian Sentowski the all-time winningest coach in program history with his 129th victory.  Sentowski (129-27-14 in eight seasons), surpassed current assistant coach Rob Chesney (128 victories from 1991-2001) for the top spot.

The NJAC title was the 10th for Montclair State, which will learn their NCAA fate on Monday, November 9 when bids are announced. Ironically, the last team to capture four straight NJAC championships was Rowan, which took the title from 1985-88.

Junior Charles Cunliffe (Lakewood, NJ / Lakewood), the NJAC Goalkeeper of the Year, had five saves for Rowan, which fell to 13-6-2 with the loss. The Profs, who were seeking 14th league title and first since 2003, advanced to the championship game following a 1-0 win over William Paterson in the opening round last Saturday and a 2-1, double-overtime triumph versus No. 2 seed TCNJ on Wednesday.

Girffin was named the NJAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, but on this night provided the only offense in the game. After MSU took the first four shots of the game, the Red Hawks had the ball deep in the Rowan end. Krol, taking the ball along the line on the right sideline inside the 18, tossed the long pass to Griffin, who flicked the header inside the left post for the goal. It was Griffin’s first goal of the year and just his third career tally.

The rest was then left up to the Montclair State defense led by Griffin and Krol as they held Rowan to just three shots in the first half. Two of those were stopped by Ritter, who denied Randy Kohr (Marmora, NJ / Ocean City) and Jason Dugan (Seaville, NJ / Ocean City) in the final six minutes of the half as MSU took its 1-0 lead into the break.

In the second half, the Red Hawks had several opportunities to extend its lead however they could not come up with a goal. Cunliffe came up with four saves as he stopped Sean Pauls (Denville, NJ / Morris Knolls) early and then made another on Chris Tatro (Somerville, NJ / Somerville) in the 70th minute. Ritter made four of his own in the period, including two key stops with under 13 minutes remaining. Kohr got off a header at 76:25 that Ritter snared and he then made a quick-handed stop of another header, this one by Mike Pascale (Toms River, NJ / Toms River South) at 77:19.

Montclair then got a golden opportunity as it countered off a Rowan corner kick. Larry Geraghty (Cranford, NJ / St. Benedict’s Prep) cleared a ball out in front along the left side to Michael Cullen (Clementon, NJ / Highland). Cullen was on a virtual breakway against Cunliffe. He would beat the goalkeeper to the ball, however he shot sailed high over the right side of the goal as MSU maintained its one-goal advantage.

Montclair State held a 15-9 advantage in shots while each team got six corner kicks apiece.