By Cristiana Votta
Looking to gain six points on the road, the men’s soccer team (3-9-1, 2-1-1 MAAC) travels to play Fairfield (5-6-1, 1-2 MAAC) on Friday before heading to Iona (5-8, 3-0 MAAC) on Sunday afternoon.
After a win last Sunday’s at home against Marist, the Broncs place fifth in the conference standings, which has senior goalie Matt Perrella and his team excited to build on their recent performance.
“I think we’ve finally learned that we are capable of scoring goals and taking chances in the offensive third,” Perrella said. “Marist was our first 2-0 win. We haven’t scored a lot of goals and we want to keep attacking and scoring.”
A pair of wins this weekend would put the Broncs in a good position heading into the tail end of their season.
“Two wins this weekend would place us in the top four in the MAAC and we would be practically set for playoffs,” freshman defender Sonimi Halliday said.
Even with the difficulties the Broncs faced in the non-conference portion of their schedule, Rider has been able to find the energy to secure two wins and a tie in the MAAC.
Halliday believes that the challenges early in the schedule have gotten the team ready to face MAAC teams.
“One thing that has definitely worked is high pressure,” Halliday said. “The teams that we played before conference have prepared us for the teams that we are playing in conference.”
Perrella feels that the difficulty of the early portion of the schedule has ultimately helped the Broncs now that they are in the heart of the conference schedule.
“I think that, for the most part, having a tougher out-of-conference schedule really helped,” Perrella said. “Although we didn’t win many of those games, it definitely prepared us for the conference. We’ve picked it up a lot since the start of the season and have changed our strategies here and there. It has worked out so far.”
Iona is undefeated in the MAAC while Fairfield will be looking to bring its record back to .500.
“Each of the teams are a little different,” Head Coach Charlie Inverso said. “Fairfield is a really big and physical team while Iona is a hard-working, skillful team. We just have to be aware of the matchups that we have against them and try not to get overly concerned on what it is they do but concentrate on what we do.”
The Broncs’ early season struggles forced some new faces into the lineup, bringing the team together.
“We’ve made some personnel changes and everyone has started to take responsibility,” Perrella said. “People are accepting their responsibilities and roles and putting more effort into everything that they do. Everyone has a desire to win.”
Inverso has also been seeing a change in the attitude of the players on the field.
“We’ve been defending a lot better, not to single out the back four defenders, but as an entire team,” Inverso said. “Everyone has stepped up a little bit and found their roles.”
The team is concentrating on each individual game since every conference game counts toward the teams chances at a MAAC championship.
“Fairfield sticks out to me the most because it’s our next game,” Perrella said. “You don’t want to look ahead any further. We’ve come a long way and we need to focus on one game at a time.”
Playing as a unit will be key this weekend as the Broncs look to climb in the MAAC standings.
“We need to continue to stay organized in the back and we need to limit [Iona’s and Fairfield’s] scoring opportunities,” Halliday said. “We need to stay high and have the wingers attack. Essentially, we need to play as a unit and put the ball in the net.”
Perrella knows that tallying points in the MAAC conference standings is critical with only five games left in the regular season.
“When playing on the road, you want to come out with some points,” Perrella said. “We are expecting to come out with six points all of the time; we want to win both games. Obviously, whatever happens, we want to come out with some kind of points to help us advance to conference finals.”