By Carlos Toro
On Oct. 31, the Rider men’s soccer team got a Halloween treat when a win over 2014 regular season champion Quinnipiac meant they finished second in the MAAC with momentum on its side.
After a 5-2 loss to Canisius (7-8-1, 4-5 MAAC) on Oct. 28, the Broncs ended the season with 11 wins, the most in the program since 1998, a year they advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
This second-place spot guarantees them a first-round bye in the MAAC Tournament. Head coach Charlie Inverso was ecstatic that his team rebounded nicely from the loss and got a good finish in the conference standings.
“This win here was really important because now we got the bye,” Inverso said. “Also, it’s important for the advancement of the program. Finishing in second was the highest in a long time.”
The Broncs’ matchup against Canisius seemed to start off well for Rider. On a rainy day, Rider scored the opening goal in the first minute of the game when sophomore forward Jose Aguinaga scored on a cross pass from junior back Rob Nardiello and junior forward Zach Bond.
But that was pretty much the high point for Rider (11-5-1, 6-3-1 MAAC) as Canisius dominated the game from that point forward. Redshirt freshman midfielder Melvin Blair tied the game at about the 33rd minute on a header.
Blair was not done as he scored his second goal of the day in the 52nd minute to give the Golden Griffins the lead. Blair then helped Canisius with two assists in the following two goals in the 68th and 76th minutes.
Against Quinnipiac (1-10-6, 1-5-4 MAAC), the Broncs had their Senior Day. Before the game, the school recognized its eight seniors: goalkeepers Ryan Baird and Devon Downs; backs Rory Duffy, Sonimi Halliday and Chris Miller; and forwards Florian Valot, Justin Veltri and Robert Kroschwitz.
After a rather uneventful first 40 minutes that saw no scoring, sophomore midfielder Matt Crust scored on a header near the 44th minute off junior midfielder Adrien Huss’s direct kick to the goal. The goal was Crust’s first of the season.
Rider was not satisfied and wanted to double that lead. They shot the ball four times in about 10 minutes from the start of the second half.
The Broncs finally got their second goal in the 76th minute when Valot scored his sixth goal of the season. The goal was assisted by Bond and Aguinaga.
The Broncs head into the conference tournament with an 8-7-1 record in MAAC postseason play.