By Steven Eggert
Rider’s men’s soccer team (3-8-1) heads to Baltimore this weekend to face Loyola University (Md.) (7-4-1). The Broncs are coming off two conference wins this past weekend against St. Peter’s (2-9) 2-0 on Friday and Manhattan (0-12) 1-0 on Sunday.
Before the Broncs collected their two victories over the weekend, Head Coach Charlie Inverso challenged his team to play to a higher standard.
“After two gut-wrenching losses, the coaching staff decided not to let these guys feel sorry for themselves but rather challenge them to pick up their game,” Inverso said. “We called it ‘desperation weekend,’ meaning that if we lost, we would eliminate ourselves from contention for the conference title. The key to our victories this weekend was mental preparation. We played in two tough venues that would have been easy to have just mailed it in but we played well and we played tough.”
Junior forward David Benavidez played a significant role in both games, scoring in both victories for the Broncs.
Benavidez is noticing the improvement.
“We are starting to gel better on the field, which couldn’t have come at a better time,” Benavidez said. “After getting the first conference wins of the season, we are hoping to build on the victories. We’ve all really been working to improve the quality of our play, and this weekend was a testament to that.”
With the Broncs two shutout victories, Inverso was pleased with the defensive effort he saw on the field.
“Our defense has been solid all year,” Inverso said. “We have gotten good leadership and play from our two goalkeepers, but the two unsung heroes have been center backs, freshman Jens Warncke and sophomore Eric Elgin. We have also received great play and leadership from our seniors Sal Lubrano, Corey Diamond and Sam Bryant.”
The Broncs are looking to add to their two-game winning streak at Loyola. The Greyhounds have won their past two games, as well.
“Loyola is a great team,” he said. “Traditionally one of the best, if not the best team in the MAAC. They really try to play the game the right way, so our preparation is not so much to worry about destroying what Loyola is going to do, but to concentrate on doing the things that we do well, and doing them better.”
Benavidez agreed with his coach.
“It’s going to be a tough battle,” Benavidez said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to get another win and improve our place in the conference standings.”
Rider has five games left in the regular season before the MAAC Championships begin and Inverso realizes that the team has a lot to do if they want to compete in the tournament.
“With two and a half weeks left in the regular season and the playoffs are right around the corner, we are just trying to get sharper, stay healthy and continue to believe in ourselves,” Inverso said. “One of our primary goals for the program was to establish the way that we want to play here at Rider. For the most part we have done that, but now we have a long way to go in making that even better.”