The men’s soccer team began the season with a positive start by defeating host Robert Morris 2-1 in the opening round of the Robert Morris University Invitational.
Junior Nico Tramontana put the first goal on the board before RMU tied the game. Sophomore Andrew Cotes scored the game-winning goal with six minutes left.
After the Aug. 29 victory, the Broncs dropped three straight decisions, all coming from shutouts. Two of the three defeats were 1-0 nail biters to quality opponents in Pittsburgh and Central Arkansas.
The problem in the shaky 1-3 beginning seems to be offense. Rider only posted two goals in its first four contests of the new campaign; however, this young group has all the talent to bounce back.
The Broncs’ 24-man roster consists of 15 underclassmen, with key returnees desiring to capture Rider’s first MAAC championship since 1998. Last year’s 7-10-2 squad returns with leading scorer Nico Tramontana. The junior fired in a team-best six goals, while compiling 13 points.
Returning goalkeeper senior Randall Zapolski is off to an impressive start. The Lawrenceville native is already fourth in the conference in the save category with 14 stops.
Ending the Broncs’ three-game skid wasn’t going to be an easy task as the team traveled to West Long Branch on Sunday to battle state rival Monmouth University.
The Hawks have been a Northeast Conference (NEC) powerhouse, capturing three straight regular season titles, and looking even more impressive to wrap up their fourth this season. Monmouth finished last season at 12-5-2 and are predicted to win the NEC championship this year. Monmouth came into the Sunday showdown sporting a 1-1 record, while receiving votes for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas Division I top 25 national rankings.
“Monmouth was very similar to Colgate as the top teams we’ve seen this year,” Head Coach Russ Fager said to Rider Sports Information. “Both very technical, very good on the ball. They’ve got good pace, good size. They’ve got the whole package.”
The Bronc’s performed superbly in the first half, heading into the break with a scoreless game. However, nine minutes into the second frame, the Hawks struck twice in a matter of three minutes, quickly putting Rider in a 2-0 hole.
“We played with more attitude and desire but not enough intensity,” Fager said to Rider Sports Information.
The Broncs offensive struggles continued, as they were unable to push anything across the board, losing their fourth straight by a final score of 2-0. With the defeat, Rider fell to 1-4, despite another solid effort in the net from Zapolski, who finished with seven saves.
Monmouth outshot the Broncs 21-1, with 15 of those 21 shots coming in the second half. The Hawks also held the corner kick advantage, overtaking Rider 13-3.
“We had three or four scoring chances,” Fager said to Rider Sports Information. “I’m not sure if they turned into shots or not but we had some chances.”
Rider will move on to play Delware at home on Sunday at 2 p.m.