By Shaun Chornobroff
When Charlie Inverso was watching the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title game between Monmouth and Quinnipiac, the veteran head coach could not avoid the feeling that his Rider team was good enough to be playing.
The second-seeded Broncs were one game away from being in the championship, but played its worst game of a unique spring season against Monmouth in the MAAC Tournament semifinals on April 14.
“I mean, I certainly think we could have been there,” Inverso said. “But, I’m not sure whether we deserved it or not because we all knew after the game that we didn’t play well.”
The Broncs came into the game undefeated and clicking on all cylinders, but were never able to find its footing in the playoff matchup.
“We did not play as well as we did in past games and that leaves us hungry and wanting to get back on the field playing again,” senior midfielder Taner Bay said. “I don’t think it was a lack of effort on the day as everyone was fighting and giving it all they had, but we just didn’t get to playing the way we know we can play.”
Rider was slow in the opening moments of the game and the Hawks quickly made them pay, giving Rider its first deficit of the season — a foreign position for a largely inexperienced roster that had only played four games together.
“You have to play a lot of games in order to face a lot of different situations,” Inverso said. “Half the team was new. Even though we meshed pretty well through the first four games, probably better than can be expected, there are still a lot of things that you need to work out when half the guys you have are new.”
Monmouth dominated the entire first half, but was unable to extend its lead. Five minutes into the second half, Monmouth buried another goal in the Rider net, handing the Broncs a 2-0 deficit and putting an end to its season.
Rider had 14 shots in the game, but most of them came in the second half with the team already trailing 2-0 and playing with pure desperation to keep its season alive.
“I think we have to improve in certain areas, in terms of breaking down defenses… We probably need to become a better counter-attacking team because that’s a big part of the game now,” Inverso said. “The big strategy is to let the other team have the ball and look to counter. And that’s probably not the way that we would prefer to play, but we still have to get better at being a counter-attacking team.”
The loss concludes an unconventional season that only saw Rider play a handful of games as COVID-19 ran rampant through the conference.
All in all, after having its fall season cancelled, Rider was just happy to have a chance to play.
“It was definitely a weird season playing in the spring but I think we were all grateful that we still got to have a season and play some socer this season,” Bay said. “I think if anythhing this spring season just makes us all more excited for next fall, as we know what good potential we have now and since we fell short of our goal this year we already want to get it back next year.”
After getting a test run of sorts in the spring season, the Rider men’s soccer team will play its next game in the fall 2021 season, as it tries to win its first MAAC Tournament Championship since 2018.