The men’s soccer team didn’t begin MAAC competition the way they wanted to. In their first two conference matchups, Rider was outscored 10-1, dropping both decisions.
The men rebounded last weekend, picking up their first league victory over Marist thanks to goals from senior Colin Jennings and sophomore Andrew Cotes, and ending a five-game losing streak.
In a conference game against Siena on Friday, Oct. 17, Rider (2-10-2, 1-3) faced a hot Saints team riding a three-game winning streak and sporting a 4-5-1 record and an undefeated mark in the MAAC. The Broncs also had the tall task of facing one of the top goalkeepers in the league, Steve Skonieczny. Siena’s stopper ranked second in the conference in saves with 62.
Nothing fazed Rider early on, as the Broncs displayed lockdown defense, until the Saints finally struck, doing so twice in a matter of 18 minutes. Siena fired in the first goal with 10 minutes left in the first half, and then quickly put Rider in a 2-0 hole, only eight minutes into the second frame.
The Broncs played an aggressive game offensively, out-shooting the Saints 17-14, but couldn’t push one across and eventually dropped the contest by a final score of 2-0. Head Coach Russ Fager wasn’t upset with his team’s effort.
“The game was a usual MAAC war,” Fager said. “We didn’t play poorly, we just didn’t finish our chances and didn’t put enough pressure on them at critical times in the match. We just couldn’t find our rhythm.”
Rider’s second leading scorer, junior Nico Tramontana, had six of the Broncs’ 17 shot attempts, while freshman Chris Pimentel made five saves in his first career start in the net.
“We started Chris for a couple of reasons. We are trying to shake up the lineup to find a combination that works for us and Chris has done well in practice,” explained Fager on the switch. “It is not that Randy [Zapolski] or Dylan [Hastings] have played poorly. I think Randy has had a great year making some very difficult saves.”
The Broncs continued to search for their first league victory on Sunday as they faced off with Marist. The Red Foxes came in with a struggling 3-7-2 record and were winless in the MAAC, with one league tie.
Rider was off to a great start, thanks with large part to Jennings. The two-year captain scored his first goal of the season on a remarkable direct kick from 50 yards out. The shot boosted the Broncs spirits and their confidence skyrocketed, according to Fager.
“The goal by Colin was very opportunistic for us,” he said. “We have been working very hard in so many games to get a goal. I think it gave the guys a lift and allowed them to believe that we could win four or five games in the conference and move onto the tournament.”
Rider struck again early in the second half off a beautiful play from a duo of sophomores. Cotes, the team’s leading scorer, cashed in from 10 yards out, receiving a nifty crossing pass from Jim Bradley. The tandem’s goal gave the Broncs a 2-0 lead, and that was all the boys’ needed for the victory. The 2-1 win was Rider’s first since Aug. 29, snapping their five game losing streak, while Pimentel made three saves for his first collegiate victory. Fager was very pleased with the game.
“The boys played very hard,” he said. “We were able to capitalize on some of our opportunities and then keep things tight in the back at end of the game.”
Rider looks to carry the momentum into this weekend as they play at Fairfield tonight at 7.