By Matt Burrill
Off to its best start in nearly three decades, the men’s soccer team is looking to make a statement this season: The Broncs are ready to take the next step and compete in the MAAC as one of the conference’s top teams.
On Sept. 25, the Broncs (5-2)squared off against New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) (4-6-1) at Ben Cohen field. Rider was in control for most of the first half because of an early goal only 10 minutes in. The goal, scored by freshman midfielder Christian Flath, came off of a pass from freshman midfielder Adrian Huss.
However, the second half was all NJIT. The Highlanders outshot the Broncs 10-1, and went on to win 2-1.Freshman goalkeeper David Pastuna, who shutout the Bronc’s last two opponents, recorded a career-high eight saves, but was unable to continue his winning trend.
Over the past five seasons Rider has averaged about three wins a year. Only seven games into the 2013 season, the team’s average has already been passed. Rider had a three-game winning streak before losing to NJIT.
Huss, who is tied for second on the team with four points, knows his squad is hard to defeat when they are clicking on all cylinders.
“When we play well, it is really difficult to beat us,” Huss said.
Keeping with the youthful trend around the field, the Broncs feature two strong freshmen goalkeepers — Jimmy Quilter and Pastuna. Quilter began the season as the starter, but suffered an injury to his leg, thrusting Pastuna into the starting role.
“I’m feeling around 90 to 95% ready to come back,” Quilter said.
With Quilter looking to return soon, the coaching staff will have a tough call to make as to who will be playing in the net.
“We have two goalkeepers who are of the same ability, which is good for us because we know that no matter who is playing, we have a solid keeper in the net,” Huss said.
As the season reaches the halfway point, the goals and high hopes for the team continue to grow stronger. With only one non-conference matchup left on the schedule, against Seton Hall (2-4-2, 0-1 Big East) today at 7 p.m., the Broncs will set their eyes on the MAAC conference. Coming into this season, Rider was projected to finish 11th in the MAAC, something that these freshmen have kept in mind.
“We were ranked pretty low coming into this season,” Quilter said. “We’re using that as our motivation.”
The Broncs’ MAAC conference play will begin Oct. 5 when they host Marist (1-7).
Even though the Broncs have made huge strides forward this season, the team will not be content until it wins the conference.
“We’re looking to get into the conference tournament this year and take this program places that it hasn’t been for a really long time,” Pastuna said.