Broncs on brink of missing playoffs

By Rob Rose

Following a 5-0 victory over Siena on Oct. 27 and a 1-0 loss against St. Peter’s on Oct. 24, the men’s soccer team needed some help to earn a bid to the playoffs.

Rider and Manhattan were tied for sixth place with 12 points before the contests and the Broncs had one more game on the schedule than the Jaspers. Manhattan defeated Quinnipiac, 2-0, while Rider only picked up three points between its two games. After the weekend, the teams were tied once again with 15 points. 

Manhattan owns the tiebreaker over Rider due to the 1-0 overtime win it secured on Oct. 10, during the only meeting between the teams this season. 

In the MAAC, six teams reach the postseason and, if Rider and Manhattan finished the year tied, the Broncs would miss the conference tournament.

Rider reached the MAAC Championship for three consecutive seasons, winning twice, and made the playoffs in each season since 2013. 

Both teams will be in action on Oct. 31— the final day of the MAAC regular season. 

Marist, 17 points, and St. Peter’s, 16 points, are the two teams above the Broncs in the standings that could be caught with a victory in its last game. 

With all four teams playing on the same day, the four matches could alter the playoff picture.

Rider will travel to Quinnipiac for its final and most crucial game of the season. The Bobcats have already been eliminated from postseason play and won four games on the season. A victory doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth for the Broncs, who need losses by St. Peter’s or Manhattan as well. 

“We still need to be confident and play with passion rather than being stressed out,” said graduate student forward Elliott Otmani. “Those games are actually the best ones to play.”

Manhattan drew the short straw and had to face the undefeated top seed Fairfield in its final game. Although they already had a playoff spot clinched, Fairfield needed a victory in its final game to clinch the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage so there is extra incentive for the Stags to win. 

Marist got the best draw of the four teams, with struggling Niagara as its final opponent. With only one win during MAAC play, the Purple Eagles had lost five straight games and gave Marist a strong chance to clinch a playoff spot. 

St. Peter’s final opponent was Siena, who had only three wins on the year and was coming off a 5-0 loss to Rider. St. Peter’s beat Rider and Manhattan previously and owned the tiebreaker over the teams, but could still miss the playoffs with a loss and victories by Rider and Manhattan. 

In the final home game of the regular season, Rider’s offense exploded on Siena for five goals. 

Otmani was named MAAC Co-Offensive Player of the Week after his one-goal, two-assist performance on Oct. 27. This was the second time this season Otmani earned the award and the fifth time of his career. He led the team in goals, assists and points with six, seven and 19, respectively. 

Senior midfielder Santiago Garcia Castro and senior back Mike Wherley scored their first-career goals in their final match at Ben Cohen Field.

“Wherley is the epitome of the kind of guy you want in your program,” said Head Coach Charlie Inverso. “He works as hard as anybody. He will do anything for his teammates and that’s why the guys went crazy. [It was] really, really special to see him score.”

Junior back Arthur Herpreck and sophomore forward Pablo DeCastro added goals as well. Herpreck put the Broncs on the board just before halftime and DeCastro increased their lead two minutes into the second half.

“We showed up today,” said Inverso. “Now we’ve got to win and see what happens. But, if we win, I feel confident in this team.”

Rider travels to Canisius on Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. with its season on the line. The match can be streamed on ESPN+. 

Follow Rob Rose on Twitter.

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