By Isaac Harris
On April 11, the seccond-seeded Rider men’s soccer team took on Iona College in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) quarterfinals for the third-straight season,leaving Ben Cohen field with a 4-1 victory.
The team was without longtime Head Coach Charlie Inverso in the crucial game due to health and safety protocols from the conference, leaving longtime associate head coach Victor Kotynski to lead the Broncs.
“It is hard to not have your coach on the sidelines [ in a game] and even more in a playoff game, but I think everyone knows their role in this team and what are the things that make this good,” said junior midfielder Guillermo Pavia Vidal.
Despite major challenges for the game, the Broncs came ready to play and started the first half strong, eventually getting a goal from Pavia Vidal to give the Broncs an early 1-0 lead to start the game.
16 minutes later, senior forward Pablo DeCastro scored on a penalty kick, giving Rider a 2-0 lead to close the first half.
DeCastro pushed the Rider lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute on a goal assisted by senior midfielder Francisco Gomez Olano.
The goals were DeCastro’s first two of the season and brought him to 27 for his decorated Rider career.
However, at the 78-minute mark of the second half, Iona’s Esad Mackic scored a goal, taking advantage of a miscommunication between the goalkeeper and the defense.
Rider’s defensive unit was its usual strong self, only allowing Iona to put two shots on net, one of which was saved by senior goalkeeper Pablo Gainois.
Makic’s goal was the first goal Rider gave up all season, ending seven halves of shutout soccer.
Despite the miscommunication, Rider scored a fourth goal at the 90-minute mark to secure the win, scored by junior midfielder Zakaria Alibou with assistance from Gomez Olano.
The goal was Alibou’s first of his career and gave Olano two assists in a stellar performance.
“It was a total team effort from the coaching staff and the players, everyone contributed to make this win possible,” said Kotynski.
The longtime associate head coach took over head coaching duties temporarily for the team for the second time in his career, the first time being in the 2016 MAAC Semifinals against Siena.
Kotynski mentioned this game was less stressful than the Siena game which ended with a victory in a penalty shootout. A great team effort was the theme throughout the game, especially while dealing with the challenge of not having Inverso.
While waiting on Inverso’s imminent return to the sidelines, the team will focus on recovery in preparation for hosting the sixth-seeded Monmouth Hawks on April 14 at 4 p.m.