Hot start pro­pels Rider into na­tional rank­ings

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Rich Fisher

If a Rider men’s soc­cer game is tied af­ter 90 min­utes, put your money on the Broncs.

Fac­ing one of its big­gest tests of the year Wed­nes­day night, Rider took a 1-0, dou­ble-over­time vic­tory over Man­hat­tan in a bat­tle for first place in the MAAC.

It was the sev­enth straight win for the Broncs (9-2, 4-0), who are tied with the Jaspers (7-5, 4-1) with 12 points and have played one less con­fer­ence game. It was also Rider’s 12th straight over­time win in the past three sea­sons.

“That is a good state­ment about our tough­ness,” coach Char­lie In­verso said. “It was a real phys­i­cal game and we lost one player (Mathis Catan­zaro) early in the game and Jose Aguinaga had to come out twice and had to go to the hospi­tal af­ter the game to re­ceive stiches.”

In­verso felt his team was not sharp un­til 80 min­utes into play, be­fore sud­denly pro­duc­ing nu­mer­ous chances in the fi­nal 10 min­utes of reg­u­la­tion and into OT. In the 109th minute, Pablo DeCas­tro (Madrid, Spain) headed in a cor­ner kick from El­liott Ot­mani to give Rider its third over­time win this sea­son.

The win came a day af­ter Rider broke into the Na­tional Soc­cer Coaches na­tional rank­ings, as the Broncs went from also-re­ceiv­ing-votes to No. 25. It is the sec­ond straight sea­son Rider en­tered the Top 25, although its stay was brief af­ter get­ting there last year.

“We re­ally don’t take the rank­ings all that se­ri­ous,” In­verso said. “It’s nice to scroll down the rank­ings and see In­di­ana, Mary­land, Stan­ford, Duke, etc. and to see us in­cluded. If the rank­ings help mo­ti­vate us that is good, but we don’t want them to be a dis­trac­tion.”

The Broncs are one of the sur­prise teams in the na­tion af­ter be­ing ham­mered by grad­u­a­tion last year. In­verso is get­ting “good, con­sis­tent play from all our guys” but added that Jose Aguinaga, Ot­mani and Robbinsville grad David Pas­tuna have pro­vided great lead­er­ship. He also pointed out that Prince­ton grad­u­ate Chase Ealy and Bor­den­town prod­uct Matt Horner “have both come in and given us valu­able min­utes.”

An­other lo­cal prod­uct mak­ing his pres­ence felt is Hamilton res­i­dent and Notre Dame grad Mark Pratico; a first-year as­sis­tant coach. De­spite deal­ing with some se­ri­ous per­sonal is­sues, Pratico con­tin­ues to be at ev­ery prac­tice and game and has taken over Larry Povia’s job of work­ing on the Broncs cor­ner kicks and res­tarts. “He’s done a great job,” In­verso said. “Our goal against Man­hat­tan came off of one of his de­signed cor­ner kicks. He learned from Larry and Larry learned from (Mercer as­sis­tant) John Pi­etrowski.”

About the only neg­a­tive In­verso can see up to this point is that his team doesn’t put the same in­ten­sity into prac­tices as it does into games; which he feels could catch up to them if it con­tin­ues.

“I would just say most days they don’t train as sharply as I want them to, so I usu­ally leave prac­tice not feel­ing like we are on a win­ning streak,” the coach said with a laugh. “I’m usu­ally mad at them about some­thing so it never feels like we are win­ning. But I still love this group.”



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