By Cameron Fitzpatrick
A game-winning goal punched the men’s soccer team’s postseason ticket in its 2-1 win against Iona on Oct. 30.
The Broncs went on the road to New Rochelle, New York, in hopes to pull away with a win that would clinch a spot in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament. The win would move the team above a .500 winning percentage and guarantee a spot in the playoffs.
The first half did not provide much offense for either team as the Broncs and Gaels were unsuccessful in putting a goal in the net through the first 70 minutes of play.
A minute later, freshman midfielder Matt Araujo’s cross-shot was deflected, taken back and booted in off of his left foot. The goal was Araujo’s first collegiate goal of his career at Rider.
The MAAC named Araujo Rookie of the Week on Nov. 4, his first honor of the season.
Junior goalkeeper Pablo Gatinois, who finished with six saves, maintained a shutout for most of the contest and made critical saves in order to help the Broncs hold on to their lead.
However, Iona scored an equalizing goal was scored in the 87th minute when a free-kick by sophomore forward Mauro Bravo was bulleted into the upper left corner of the goal.
The goal sent the game into an eventual double overtime after neither team was able to tack on another goal in the final minutes of regulation.
The defense was successful in preventing the Gaels from scoring on their 14 shot attempts (five shots on goal) from the start of the second half until the second overtime.
In the 108th minute, junior midfielder Aaron Gabriel collected a pass from up the sideline and sank the game-winner into the bottom of the net.
With the win, the Broncs officially clinched a berth to play in the MAAC Tournament and will have the opportunity to defend their title from last season.
“Gabriel came up big for us,” Head Coach Charlie Inverso said. “Since we’ve now claimed our playoff berth we have the right combination this week to work the group hard without draining too much of their energy or passion.”
Rider now holds the No. 6 seed in the tournament and could move up in the standings with a win on Nov. 6 against Quinnipiac. With the likelihood of the team’s first-round matchup being played on the road, Inverso spoke about how the team has learned from tough road wins this season.
“Road wins are something we place a lot of importance on,” Inverso said. “We have won 32 games away from home in the past five years. They help create team bonding.”
The Broncs will begin their title defense in the MAAC Tournament on Nov. 10. The opponent is to be determined.