By Trey Wright
Looking to get back in the win column, the Broncs stared down a slate of games against two fierce Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) opponents. Rider succeeded in its goal by taking down preseason MAAC favorites Quinnipiac 4-2 on Oct. 6 and followed it up by defeating Niagara 2-1 on Oct. 9.
Coming off of a tough double overtime loss against Monmouth, Rider traveled up to Southern Connecticut with one thing in mind: a statement win. Quinnipiac, the MAAC preseason favorite, was the perfect target, with the Broncs scoring four goals in a big 4-2 win.
Rider (3-4-1) put ink on the scoresheet early in the 11th minute, with a headed-in goal by senior defender Regis Dulck, off of a perfectly placed corner kick by graduate student back, Sergio Aguinaga to put the Broncs up 1-0.
In the 40th minute, senior forward Zaki Alibou doubled the lead, scoring his first of two goals on the day putting the Broncs up by two at the half, showing exactly what this Rider team can do.
“I felt it was a really good game, scored two goals, and I feel so happy that I’m able to help this team. The most important thing is that we win,” Alibou said after the match.
Five minutes into the second half, graduate student midfielder Fransisco Gomez Olano’s game winner was scored on an incredible shot from an inconceivable angle to put Rider ahead by three.
The Bobcats got one shot past junior goaltender Guillaume Veinante in the 63rd minute, but Alibou tallied his second goal of the day in the 72nd, putting the match out of reach.
Quinnipiac would cut the deficit back to two in the 90th minute, but the Broncs came out with a win to climb to 4-4-1 on the season.
The Broncs would finish the match with 13 shots. Alibou led the team in that department, taking six of those 13, putting four of them on goal.
In net, Veinante was only called upon to make one save for Rider, as the match was a complete showing from all of the Broncs in front of him.
Coming home from the win against Quinnipiac, Rider looked to have a winning record for the first time this season, but a win was needed against Niagara. With the skies about to burst, and a chilly 58-degree the temperature caused those few in the Ben Cohen Field stands to shiver as they watched the match, the Broncs took the pitch against the Purple Eagles, who Rider has beaten in the last four meetings between the two teams. Rider did so once again with a 2-1 victory of Niagara.
Niagara took the opening kickoff, and for the first 35 minutes, both teams were feeling one another out, with Rider leading in shots 5-1. But it was ultimately the Purple Eagles who got on the scoreboard first, with a point-blank shot off of a bad giveaway from the Broncs.
“We were very sluggish. I’ve seen this happen a million times,” said Inverso, “1 p.m. game on a Saturday, and there’s a crowd, but the crowd is quiet and, to me, we looked lethargic.”
Miscommunication between the attacking Broncs played into this as well, with Rider being called offsides six times in the match, thrice in each half.
“We weren’t really focusing in the first half, and we were offside a lot of times,” said Alibou, “I really don’t know why.”
Just before halftime, Alibou hit the pitch in what looked to be a hamstring injury but was able to get off the floor and rest during the halftime break. Nine minutes into the second half, he put the Broncs on the board with a low shot inside the box to tie the game.
“It wasn’t an injury, I was just tired … I came back more focused and was able to score a goal,” said Alibou afterward.
Alibou was named MAAC Men’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 11. Alibou is also tied for the conference lead in goals with seven and leads the MAAC in points.
From that moment on it was a tight battle between two MAAC rivals, and the game got intense, with Rider receiving two yellow cards in the second half.
The savior of this game was Broncs senior defender Jeremy Peterson, who was able to track down a Niagara forward who had a breakaway chance in the 67th minute and kept the game tied.
But the biggest moment of the game came in the 86th minute, as Taner Bay, who had late-game heroics in the previous home game against Fordham, crossed the ball in the box on a routine dump in. A Niagara defender tried to deflect it out but ended up putting the ball into his net, giving Rider its first lead of the afternoon.
“We knew we were working hard in the second half, dominating, and were looking to get something going,” Bay said afterward, “So it was pure joy and excitement after it went in to get the last one in and get the win.”
Niagara tried their hardest to re-tie the game and had a great chance that was blocked by Veinante, but it wasn’t enough, as the Broncs eked out their fifth win of 2021, being above .500 for the first time all year.
“Sometimes, it’s just a matter of bringing passion. We brought the passion in the second half, [and] created a lot of chances,” said Inverso, “Niagara is a really hard team to play. So, it was a good win. We’ll take it.”
The Broncs play on the road at Marist (5-6-1) on Oct. 13.