By David Pavlak
This is the final installment about the goaltenders participating in Rider Athletics.
When looking at top athletes, it seems as if they were born with their athletic ability, as if it is in their biological makeup. Junior Matt Perrella has been a top athlete since he entered the soccer program at Rider three years ago. Perrella has been a consistently strong goalie for the Broncs in a MAAC division that is full of competition.
Perrella, a native of North Brunswick, N.J., chose Rider on the recommendation of his former club soccer coach, who was a former coach for the Broncs. With his coach’s suggestion, Perrella looked at Rider, and the rest was history.
“Rider chose me,” Perrella said. “To be honest, it wasn’t even a school I was looking at, but my club soccer coach had convinced me that it was a good fit, close to home, a great place to study education and a place where the opportunity to play as early as a freshman was possible. I had some other offers from different schools, but in the end with all of the factors that my coach presented to me and the excitement of playing somewhere that my family could see me, that was a huge deciding factor.”
Being a goaltender is a position that Perrella has enjoyed since he started playing. Making the save was always more valuable than scoring the goal.
“Playing in the goal was always one of those things that I used to step up and play because nobody else ever wanted to when you were a young kid,” Perrella said. “For some reason though, I always found it more appealing to be the one keeping the ball out of the net. I like being the one that makes the save when no one expects you to get there; seeing the forward’s face when you block a shot that they thought would be a sure goal is priceless. I just enjoy the role. There’s no greater feeling than coming off the field knowing you did your job, helped the team win and earned a shutout.”
Shutouts have been achievements that Perrella has been able to accomplish more than a few times this season. He currently has shutouts against Seton Hall, Saint Peter’s and Manhattan. Perrella was also recently named MAAC Defensive Player of the Week for his back-to-back shutouts during the Saint Peter’s and Manhattan games. Perrella has been happy with both the offensive and defensive units in front of him this season.
“The defense overall has played great,” Perrella said. “We are still finding that we have to be better. Our center backs are young and still learning how to play together and are trying to find their voices on the field. The offense has sparked lately. We have seen a good amount of goals from the offense and they are starting to learn the tendencies of each other. We have been struggling with making that final pass behind the defense lately but I think that is all coming together.”
The addition of new Head Coach Charlie Inverso has added a new spark to a Broncs squad that looked outplayed last season. They finished the year at 2-15-1. Perrella, however, is noticing a rejuvenated team under Inverso’s leadership.
“Coach Inverso has brought in his own philosophy and has convinced the team that change is good,” Perrella said. “Not that our record shows it, but our team knows that we have been in every game and have adapted well to the style of play that other teams have played against us with. This team will keep getting better. If you look at all of our games this year we were in it till the end in almost all of them. We could have very easily been 8-3 right now, things just haven’t fallen our way. We’ve had some unfortunate games just not fall our way as much as they have for some other teams.”
With the Broncs preparing to enter the MAAC tournament in the next couple of weeks, they will need to rely on Perrella’s goaltending ability to help keep them competitive on their journey for a MAAC championship. He is positive that the Broncs will be contenders for the MAAC crown when the time comes calling.
“We’re just going to keep on staying positive and playing hard,” he said. “We know we are as good as anyone in the MAAC and have nothing to be afraid of. We’re just going to play one game at a time and see where we are by the time of the tournament. We have nothing to lose so we’re just going to give it our best shot.”