By Carlos Toro
After the men’s soccer team won the MAAC Tournament, its season ended with its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament when the Broncs took on Vermont on the road on Nov. 17.
The Broncs (13-4-3, 7-1-2 MAAC) lost 4-1 on the road, facing a strong Vermont offense that had a total of 22 shot attempts. The Broncs now finish the season as the two-time defending MAAC Tournament champions.
Head Coach Charlie Inverso said the season was a successful one, giving credit to the seniors for helping elevate the program and setting the team up for the future.
“We have so many guys on this team who worked hard and got us a second straight conference title,” Inverso said. “I think we are going to be a strong team again next year.”
Vermont (14-7-1, 4-3 American East) began with a goal from senior forward Brian Wright in the 25th minute. The Broncs had plenty of opportunities to score in the first half, taking nine shots, but coming up empty.
Vermont doubled its lead near the end of the first half, after a second goal from Wright in the 43rd minute. Wright received a through ball from graduate midfielder Charlie DeFeo and scored on a one-on-one opportunity against Rider junior goalkeeper Ryan Baird.
The Broncs had a shot at cutting the Catamounts’ lead to one goal heading into halftime when they were given a free kick opportunity to close out the half.
Senior midfielder Matt Fryc attempted the free kick with the ball going just wide off the right goal post to end the first half.
Rider’s defense held strong in the first part of the second half, preventing Vermont from scoring within the first 25 minutes, but ultimately let up when Vermont scored a third goal in the 71st minute, thanks to Catamounts senior midfielder Stefan Lamanna.
Rider scored with less than three minutes remaining to make a 3-1 game, but it was a little too late. The goal was scored by redshirt freshman back Arthur Herpreck and was assisted by senior forward Zach Bond.
Vermont’s Wright capped off the big day with a third goal afterwards, when he scored with mere seconds remaining in the game after Rider scored to complete the hat trick.
Baird may have allowed four goals, but he still had an outstanding game, making a career-high 12 saves from the 16 shots on target Vermont attempted in the game.
Rider’s season started with a four-game win streak, including victories against teams such as Villanova on the road and Temple at home. After the unbeaten start, the Broncs were ranked in the top 25 in the nation, but struggled afterwards, losing their next two games and tying in the following game.
However, since losing at Monmouth on Oct. 4, Rider rattled off seven wins and two ties, which culminated in the Broncs winning the 2016 MAAC Tournament at Canisius.
This was Rider’s second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Broncs lost on the road in the first round of last year’s tournament as well, to then-defending champions Virginia. In this year’s tournament, Virginia defeated Vermont in the second round 2-1 in overtime.
Inverso said the progress the team has made in the past few years is because the players are staying the course and believing in themselves.
“I am just indebted to these guys for all the work they have put in,” Inverso said. “I can’t imagine a senior class from this program that has done more than this group of guys. This program’s turnaround started about three years ago and we are set for the future. All of these guys have been great on and off the field.”