By Carlos Toro
The last time Rider started a men’s soccer season this well, most of this year’s freshman class weren’t even born.
The Broncs (5-1, 0-0 MAAC) traveled to Olean, N.Y., on Sept. 22 to defeat the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (5-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10) 1-0. This is the team’s best start since the 1992 season when the Broncs played in the NEC. However, the match was no picnic for Rider.
“The game was really tough,” Head Coach Charlie Inverso said. “St. Bonaventure plays hard. We battled a lot of adversity like a long bus ride, a poor playing surface and, let’s just say, many questionable calls. The game did not allow us to move the ball around and really came down to just good defending and rolling up our sleeves and working hard.”
St. Bonaventure has averaged 3.2 goals in victories this season, but that did not stop freshman goalkeeper David Pastuna from having his second career shutout, blocking five shots.
Inverso stressed how imporant it is for all of his players to play defense no matter what side of the field they are on.
“We prepare defensively the same way every game; defense starts with each player wanting to defend,” Inverso said. “It is not just the back four and goalkeeper, it is the attacking players who must see themselves as defending players as much as attackers. It starts with the principles of defense, which begin with pressure, marking up and not letting the opponent get behind you.”
The game opened up in the 12th minute, when freshman back Warren Holmes scored his first collegiate goal via a pass from freshman forward Justin Gregory, but the game didn’t end there.
Even with the lead, the Broncs’ defense was tested by relentless attacks from St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies had 17 shots, five of which were on goal, and four of them came in the second half where Pastuna shined.
Rider was outshot 17-6 and only had one corner in the game, while St. Bonaventure had seven. The Bonnies’ last chance came in the 84th minute, when senior midfielder Brad Vanino had the last shot of the game.
The shot was stopped by Pastuna, who has played well since he replaced injured starting freshman goalkeeper Jimmy Quilter in the second half against Temple almost two weeks ago. Pastuna had two shutouts in the three full games he’s played in his collegiate career and looks to get better.
“I do feel like I can improve,” Pastuna said. “The only thing I can do is work hard in practice and earn the starting spot. All the keepers are hard workers so I know I have to go above and beyond.”
The Broncs face their first of a three-game home stand today, Wednesday, against New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) (2-5-1) which will enter the game on a two-game losing streak. The Broncs then get some time to come home and rest before their Oct. 2 matchup against Seton Hall and their first MAAC conference game on Oct. 5 against Marist.
The win on Sept. 22 was the third straight for Rider. The last time the Broncs had such a streak was the 2009-10 season. With the 5-1 start, the team is just taking things step by step and not thinking about championships for now.
“As far as the three straight home games, it is exciting and it will be nice to be home because the last two weekends were long trips,” Inverso said. “We just take one game at a time and now we start focusing on NJIT.”