LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL – Freshmen Zachary Pereira (Rahway, NJ/St. Benedict’s) and Danny Figarella (Wappingers Falls, NY/John Jay) found the back of the net, but the top-seeded Monmouth University men’s soccer team was edged by second-seeded Rider, 3-2, Monday afternoon in the MAAC Championship Final at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The loss snaps the Hawks’ 17-game unbeaten streak, which led the nation entering the game. Monmouth (13-4-4) must hope for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, while Rider (14-5-1) secured the MAAC’s automatic berth.
“The boys are disappointed right now, but we’ve had a fantastic season,” said Monmouth Head Coach Robert McCourt. “I’d like to pay tribute to our group of seniors. They’ve had outstanding careers at Monmouth and should be proud.”
For their performances over three games in the tournament, Pereira, John Egan (Smithtown, NY/Hauppauge) and Dave Nigro (Marlboro, NJ/Marlboro) were named to the All-MAAC Championship Team.
Rider broke through in the 44th minute, when a foul along the left sideline gave the Broncs a free kick from 35 yards out. Adrien Huss sent the service into the box, where Matt Fryc headed it underneath the crossbar from eight yards out.
The Broncs added some insurance in the 55th minute, when Elliott Otmani scored in transition from 15 yards out to the top right of the box off a feed from the middle from Jose Aguinaga.
The Hawks cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 80th minute, when David Acuña Camacho (Heredia, Costa Rica/Costa Rica YNT) played the ball into the box, where Dan Pizzimenti (Manalapan, NJ/Christian Brothers Academy) headed it down to Pereira for the score from close range. But just 17 seconds later, Aaron Freeman tapped in a goal off a Florian Valot assist to make it 3-1.
With 55 seconds remaining, Figarella utilized a bicycle kick to put the rebound of Andrew Gee’s (Cranford, NJ/Cranford) shot off the crossbar back into the netting to cut the deficit to 3-2. But the Broncs fended off the Hawks’ final push for a goal in the final minute to secure the win.
For the game, Monmouth outshot Rider, 16-14, but the Broncs took a 12-10 edge in shots on goal. Corner kicks were an even 5-5. Monmouth goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky (Lincoln Park, NJ/DePaul Catholic) matched his career high with nine saves, while Ryan Baird made eight stops for Rider.