App State (8-9) dominated NJIT (5-10-4) with the help of over 1,000 fans Thursday night, as the Apps advance to the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament.
“I thought we started slowly, but we took over the game as it wore on and especially when we went up a man,” head coach Matt Nelson said. “We handled the situation very well, but we can’t wait until we are down 1-0 to start playing tomorrow.”
The Mountaineers allowed a goal early in the 13th minute as Highlander Joshua Mercer was able to power a shot from the edge of the box and sneak the ball in low past sophomore goalkeeper Jake Chasteen.
The Black and Gold continued to play with their hearts firing shot after shot tallying up to a total of six shots in just the first half. Eventually, senior midfielder Trey Hemphill was able to even the score with a marvelous goal off the free kick set piece. Hemphill was able to find a hole in the crowded penalty box and rocket in a shot reaching the back of the net, scoring his second goal of the season.
The physical play kicked in right before half as Highlander Danny Cordeiro was issued a red card at the 45-minute mark. With the red card being issued, NJIT was forced to play a man down for the remainder of the game. Emotions ran high when both teams went to their locker rooms at half as the NJIT Highlanders were letting their frustration be expressed to the crowd and to the referees.
The second half kicked off and it was an entire new game. The players were playing extremely physical and trash talking as the class with the game of soccer faded away and the brutality kicked in. The trash talking was not limited to the field and was picked up in the stands as well. The App State crowd went back and forth with NJIT’s fans and players and the game began to feel like a harsh rival match.
NJIT was issued two yellow cards setting up a free kick for the App’s at the 73-minute mark. Senior midfielder Alex Herbst took the free kick as he chipped the ball up into the box connecting to senior defender Alex Beranger as he headed the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal. App now was in the lead 2-1, while NJIT struggled to stay composed.
Physical play continued to happen and then NJIT player Eugene Listwan tackled Raheem Somersall in the 90th minute. Somersall fell to the ground in pain, immediately grabbing his ankle and screaming. After the tackle, Listwan got on the ground next to Somersall and began to yell in his face and push him on the ground. Madness erupted at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex as both teams collided at midfield, pushing each other and teammates holding each other back. The referee issued a red card to Listwan for his act. Listwan was taken out with security guards and as he walked past App’s bench he continued to mouth off. App State fans followed him, chanting at him as he left the stadium.
The game ended with both teams enraged, but App State was able to sneak out with a big win. App State will remain at home as they continue their tournament run at 6:30 p.m. against the Hartwick Hawks where they hope to get revenge from a loss to the Hawks earlier in the season.
Story by: Brent Gilmore, Sports Reporter