POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - The Marist Men's Soccer team were defeated in its season opener against the top-40 RPI ranked UC Riverside Highlanders by a score of 3-0. Though a three goal deficit, the game proved much closer as the score stood at 1-0 with under 10 minutes to go. Junior Anthony Sokalski (London, Ontario) put forth a strong defensive effort in goal as he made his Red Fox debut. The newcomer made six saves in the setback.
The first half played out as many would expect a season opening game as both teams took their time feeling out themselves and their opponent. As Head Coach Matt Viggiano said postgame, "we played a great first half; we took them out of their game and got them frustrated by their lack of offensive opportunities."
In the first 45, each squad registered three shots, with only one attempt on goal a piece. The Red Foxes best scoring opportunity came late in the half when sophomore back MJ Stellwag (Newburgh, N.Y.) raced down the right sideline and whipped a strong cross towards the net towards a charging Myles Ashong (Pleasant Valley, N.Y.). Unfortunately for Marist, UC Riverside's goalkeeper Ashkan Khosravi intercepted the ball right before Ashong had a chance to make contact.
Coming out in the second half, the Highlanders realized that their opportunities to score could be limited again so they got more aggressive in the midfield and offense zones and almost immediately it paid dividends as they drew a penalty in Marist's box to set up a penalty kick situation. In the 49th minute, Jose Diaz converted the penalty kick to put the visitors up 1-0.
Unfazed, the Red Foxes kept the game close as freshman Simon Laugsand (Sortland, Norway) showed himself to be a weapon from the backfield as he put strong strikes into three free kicks from near the midfield stripe and into offensive chances near the goal.
The team's best opportunity came from a free kick by sophomore Matty Berman (West Orange, N.J.) in the 72nd minute, as he restarted the ball from in the offensive zone and fed senior Josh Faga (Rochester, N.Y.), who flicked the ball onto a waiting Greg Davis (Jamaica, N.Y.), who just missed depositing the ball into the upper right corner of the goal with a powerful volley.
With Marist pressing offensively, the Highlanders were able to score two late goals in the final 9:11 of the contest to make the contest final at a score of 3-0.
The Red Foxes were led offensively by Davis and junior Wes Finch (Newburgh, N.Y.), who each registered two shots. In goal, Sokalski made six saves, including two one-on-one, point blank range, shots in the second half.
Viggiano remarked after the match that "we relaxed a bit coming out in the second half and you just can't do that against a tough team like UC Riverside. Though the PK gave them momentum, we still had our opportunities to tie it back up. The two late goals were unfortunate; the score really wasn't indicative of the effort and play that we put forth today. We'll use a game like this to learn and build from."
The Red Foxes will next be in action on Tuesday, Aug. 28 when they host Northeastern in a 7 p.m. matchup. That contest will be the team's final home game in nearly a month as they will be on the road for the following 26 days.