North Branch, NJ - After a 1-win season in 2013, Golden Lions men's soccer could only improve in 2014 and their final match emphatically made that statement. RVCC had their biggest offensive output in three seasons and rolled to an 8-0 win at Lehigh Carbon CC.
Erick Hernandez got RVCC on the board just two minutes into the game, finding a loose ball from a corner kick and firing home his 7th goal of the year. Jhaliyl Stewart capped a big week with two more goals. After being named both NJCAA D3 National and Region XIX player of week, Stewart converted a pass from Facundo Galante in the 6th minute to put RVCC ahead 2-0.
Early success continued to be RVCC's downfall. After jumping out to an early lead, egos again got in the way of progress. Golden Lion players tried to play 1 v 11, needlessly dribbling into trouble and giving away possession instead of sticking with the team-centric passing style which created several chances. Lehigh-Carbon was able to pin the visitors in their end but the closest they came to scoring was a goal-bound shot cleared off the line with Ryan Lauder beaten. Despite several corners and half chances, the Cougars were not able to cut the deficit. After being forced to make several substitutions to get some flow back into the RVCC attack, Sebastian Laskowski burst past a defender onto a long pass and was taken down just inside the penalty area. Facundo Galante converted the PK to make it 3-0. Right before half time, Geovanny Barboza dribbled down the left wing, cut inside and fired a low, hard shot under the goalkeeper at the front post to make it 4-0.
The Golden Lions moved into a 4-3-3 to start the half and played by far their best half of soccer all season. Geovanny Barboza's second goal was easily RVCC's goal of the year. After moving the ball from their own defensive third into LCCC's penalty area in 4 beautifully worked passes, Barboza ran onto a perfect ball Erick Henandez cut back to the top of the area and ripped a shot into the net. Henandez would quickly go from provider to scorer minutes later, converting another well-worked attacking sequence with Barboza providing the critical pass. Jhaliyl Stewart scored again in the 60th minute off a feed from Anthony Hernandez, beating the LCCC goalkeeper and slotting home his 4th of the season from a tight angle to make it 7-0.
RVCC's player of the year, Tony Chaparro, got the final goal from the penalty spot. Shubhi Oberoi and Anthony Hernandez continually created brilliant opportunities coming forward from their wide back positions, after combining several passes at the edge of the penalty area, Anthony Hernandez was chopped down sending RVCC to the spot for the second time. Chaparro's shot just squeezed under the goalkeeper earning him his first goal of the season and putting the Golden Lions ahead 8-0. Ryan Lauder, filling in for an injured Ryan Hamblin, earned his first collegiate win and first shutout in his final match for Raritan Valley.
First year Head Coach Gerry Montague tried to summarize the Lions' season, "Last year's team was trying to avoid getting blown out every game, this year's team was fighting for a win in almost every game which is a huge step forward. We started the season bringing in an excellent assistant coach, we found a system that worked well for our team and steadily racked up small but important successes almost every week".
"You spend almost 3 months building a team from a group of individuals and it's disappointing not to work with them any more. We have to replace Ryan Hamblin and Ryan Lauder in goal, Erick Hernandez and Tony Chaparro were key players and losing them will be a big loss for our program. We got some good performances from Andrew Williams early in the season so we'll need to replace our center backs as well. We'll cut a couple of huge egos and bring in guys with a 'team first' mentality. They're the type of players who give you the ability to compete with any team in the conference".
"Anthony Hernandez, Raul Otayza, Facundo Galante and Jhaliyl Stewart developed into strong players during the 2nd half of the season. It's exciting to think about the impact they can have next year. We hope to have Nick Faxon healthy again and possibly bring back a couple of other guys who had small roles this year. We know there are very talented guys on campus who didn't want to play in what had been a bad program, that is another player pool we definitely want to reach. If we can tap into the high school and club programs in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, we can continue to rebuild and start to compete for titles. Me and Joe Colodne are already looking at where we can go next year, our 2015 season starts Monday".
The Golden Lions earned their first away win since the 2012 season and end the year with an overall record of 4-7-2. Lehigh Carbon falls to 3-11-1.