By Stephen Neukam
The men’s soccer team is ranked No. 25 in the United Soccer Coaches National Poll after defeating Quinnipiac, 2-0, in a rematch of last year’s MAAC Championship.
Senior forward Elliott Otmani was named MAAC Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week, following his two-goal effort against the Bobcats.
Rider, following suit of last week’s game against St. Peter’s, wasted no time in making a statement. In the third minute of the match, sophomore forward Clement Bourret fired a left-footed shot on goal, which was deflected by a Quinnipiac defender.
Otmani pounced on the rebound, sending a shot from just inside the 18-yard box to the left post and rolled the ball in to give the Broncs a 1-0 lead.
Freshman midfielder Mathis Catanzaro picked up the only caution of the match, being shown a yellow card in the 39th minute. The first half came to a close with Rider in the lead 1-0.
In the second half, Quinnipiac threatened to level the score with its best opportunity of the night. The Bobcats’ junior forward Rashawn Dally found himself up against senior goalkeeper David Pastuna after breaking down the Bronc defense. Dally took the shot with his right foot, sending the ball to the keeper’s left, which Pastuna quickly reacted to. He smacked the ball away, finally catching it after a bounce off the ground.
Rider capitalized on this missed opportunity by Quinnipiac and doubled its lead in the 87th minute. Senior forward Jose Aguinaga and Otmani found themselves in a two-on-one situation with the Bobcats’ goalkeeper. Aguinaga dragged the keeper out of his goal, rolled the ball to his right, and Otmani sent it into the open net.
The game ended 2-0. The two teams, could not have had more opposite starts to this year’s campaign.
The Broncs, winners of their last five contests, have an 8-2 record overall and are 3-0 in MAAC play. Quinnipiac, who was voted this year’s preseason favorite, saw its record drop to 3-7-1 overall following the defeat to Rider.
One of the main reasons behind Rider’s impressive streak has been the play of Otmani. He has scored six goals in his last four matches.
Head Coach Charlie Inverso cited a stretch in which the senior forward was nursing muscle soreness, saying, “Our trainer, Karen Vassalluzzo, shut him down for five days and whatever she did turned him back into the player that we know he can be.” Inverso also praised Otmani’s leadership and described him as an “intense competitor who despises losing.”
Otmani took a modest approach. “It gives me and the team a lot of confidence and motivation to keep working hard for each other in order to keep creating chances, score goals and obviously win the games,” he said. “Whoever is the one scoring does not matter, at the end we need to win our games.”
The two-time defending champions face probably their biggest challenge yet on Oct. 11, when they host undefeated Manhattan at 7 p.m. The Jaspers are 4-0 in MAAC play, so this will be a battle for first place.