By Arianna Marino
After its first MAAC loss of the season to rival Monmouth on Oct. 5, the men’s soccer team bounced back with a 2-1 victory at home on Oct. 8.
In West Long Branch, the Hawks looked to take revenge on a Rider team that beat them in the conference title game last year. Both teams played tight defense, giving up little quality offensive opportunities.
The Hawks had a slight advantage in shots, 5-4, but senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird made a pair of saves. The home team also had the edge in corner kicks, 3-1, in the first half.
At the start of the second half, Monmouth pressured the Bronc defense, changing the intensity of the game.
With the pace of play increasing and regulation coming to a close, it seemed as if this rivalry was going to continue into overtime.
However, in the 88th minute, Monmouth was granted a free kick, which resulted in a Daniel Figarella goal that went past Baird.
Unable to recover from the goal in the 2 minutes left in regulation, the Broncs were handed a tough 1-0 loss.
Junior forward Jose Aguinaga said, despite the loss, Rider still showed it’s a force to be reckoned with.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and rivalry games like this one are usually decided by small details,” he said. “They capitalized on a free kick in the final minutes. We lacked concentration for a second, and they took advantage of it. We had a really good chance to win, which shows what kind of team we are. If you asked Monmouth, I doubt they’d say we are an easy team to play against.”
However, the loss against Monmouth only fueled Rider’s intense win against undefeated Siena on Oct. 8, a game marked with constant breaks in actions because of fouls. From the start of the first half, Siena came out swinging, playing an aggressive game in an attempt to throw Rider off its game plan.
Rider was not surprised by Siena’s style as many teams in the MAAC play combatively.
Both teams played tough, which led to many yellow cards and nearly resulted an on-field fight. Siena cashed in early on a Rider miscue that resulted in the Broncs finding their own goal.
However, the Broncs did not let the Saints rejoice for long, as Rider quickly responded when sophomore forward Jo Panuccio found the back of the correct net on an assist by senior midfielder Adrien Huss at 50 minutes. Siena continued to show grit, which resulted in senior midfielder Christian Flath suffering a broken nose during the game.
Flath’s injury, however, only fueled the fire. Shortly after he was escorted off the field, freshman forward Clement Bourret provided Rider with their second goal assisted by junior forward Elliott Otmani.
Bourret’s goal secured the win for Rider, as Siena was unable to respond, giving Rider the 2-1 win.
Aguinaga said the team regrouped well and was very excited about the win.
“It was very rewarding,” he said. “It was one of those wins that felt like it was worth more than three points in the standings. It was a huge comeback for us after that unlucky goal, and after losing our captain to an unlucky play. It seemed like everything was going against us, but we handled it well and got the win.”
This week, Rider will go to Manhattan on Oct. 12 and Marist on Oct. 15. The Broncs still rank in the national top 25 for Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which considers quality of wins and strength of schedule.
Aguinaga doesn’t think the team needs to make any adjustments in order to get back into first place. He said they just need to play their game.
“We don’t need to fix any big aspect of the way we play,” he said. “We do need to work harder in terms of getting the team to compete for the full 90 minutes. But, in general, we have a clear idea of what to do to beat each team. We just have to execute better.”
Additional reporting by Brandon Scalea