By Melissa Kasiarz
The men’s soccer team went into last weekend looking to strike up the offense and strengthen its playoff hopes against Niagara and Canisius. The Broncs (2-11-1, 1-3-1 MAAC) came away with a 1-1 double overtime tie against the Purple Eagles (4-9-2, 2-3-1 MAAC) on Friday, but fell to the Golden Griffins (3-10-1, 3-3 MAAC) on Sunday, 1-0.
After trailing for most of the game, sophomore Dan Friga scored a timely goal with only 6:39 left in the second half to send the game into an extra session. The goal was Friga’s second of the season, fourth of his career and a huge one for Rider.
The goal was assisted by seniors Andrew Cotes and Jim Bradley, completing the game-tying score.
“Dan did a very nice job late in the game,” said head coach Russ Fager. “His goal was timely and was set up by a ball played into the box by Bradley and then brought down by Cotes. All three did a great job to give us the chance.”
Niagara grabbed an early lead 19 minutes into the action before a defensive battle took place as both teams went scoreless deep into the second half. Friga then delivered his heroics, ending the Broncs’ scoring drought.
Neither team could push one across in the two overtimes, finishing the conference contest in a tie.
“The teams’ performance really showed character throughout the game,” said Friga.
Niagara outshot Rider 27-8 and 9-4 in shots on goal with junior Sal Lubrano firing three of Rider’s eight total shots.
This game was Rider’s first overtime match of the season. The most recent overtime game Rider played was in 2009 when the Broncs notched a 1-0 victory over Saint Peter’s in their season finale.
The last time Rider and Niagara squared off was a home game for the Broncs as they won by a 3-1 decision. Compared to its previous trip to Niagara, the outcome this season was a drastic improvement. The last time Rider visited the Purple Eagles, the Broncs endured a 7-1 thrashing.
“Even though everyone would have liked to win, it was important to at least earn one point for the game to keep us alive in the chase for a conference playoff berth,” said freshman Eric Elgin. “I think we showed how much we have matured this season by fighting back to tie it.”
On Sunday, Rider was unable to put the ball in the net as the Broncs lost to Canisius.
Canisius struck early and it was the difference in the contest. With the game scoreless, Canisius scored three minutes into the match on a penalty kick off of a questionable call that proved costly.
Rider’s goalkeeper, sophomore Matt Perrella, put in another solid effort in the net, making five saves on the day.
Friga continued his consistent play, compiling six shots for Rider, three of them on goal. Rider kept up the offensive pressure, out-shooting Canisius in the corner kick department, 7-4.
The Broncs have struggled with the Golden Griffins in the past, as they now have dropped the last three decisions to them by a total score of 7-1.
Rider looks to close out the home portion of its season on a positive note as it takes on Marist (7-7 overall, 2-3 MAAC) tonight at 7 p.m. and Siena (7-6-1 overall, 4-1 MAAC) on Sunday at 3 p.m.