I checked the forecast a handful of times Wednesday afternoon.
Even I, a seasoned soccer fan who knows that games play-on unless thunder and lightning are present, had to refer to the MAAC website to ensure the game wasn’t postponed or cancelled.
The weather was so miserable, in fact, that head coach Matt Viggiano donned sweatpants and a jacket instead of his trademark shorts.
Approximately seven umbrellas in attendance were treated to an energetic, cracking 2-1 overtime win for the Marist Men’s Soccer team over the preseason favorite, Fairfield University Stags.
Upon seeing the Red Foxes line up for kickoff, a glaring tactical change was evident in Viggiano’s system. Freshman Antek Sienkiel, who has played outside-back all season, was pushed up the field as a holding midfielder.
Viggiano noted this change allowed his players to shine brighter in their spots. “[Sienkiel’s] work rate in the middle is great, so we thought it kind of balanced us a little more,” Viggiano said.
At times, the messy weather was reflected in the play on the field. Junior Allen Gavilanes took the liberty of cleaning up one such mess in the Fairfield box, placing his shot inside the right post after a frantic scramble.
Marist’s lead could have been doubled or even tripled had the finishing touches gone their way. Stags goalkeeper Gordon Botterill pounced on a loose ball, only to fumble it like a bar of soap. Freshman Red Fox Stefan Copetti was unable to put the ball away after doing a jig in front of the net searching for the perfect opening.
Fairfield found a spectacular equalizer while turning the tide of the game in their favor. Senior Diallo Simon-Ponte cleared the Stags bench with a stunning goal booming into the back corner.
What’s better than a full soccer game in the pouring rain? Overtime after a full soccer game in the pouring rain, obviously.
Not eight minutes into the first overtime period, Sienkiel headed a cross from Copetti between the legs of Botterill. The Red Fox bench erupted and sprinted to celebrate with their freshmen heroes in the corner while Viggiano embraced an assistant in relief.
Playing higher up the field now, the freshman from Pennsylvania had the freedom to get in the box and on the end of the match-winning play.
His first career goal clinched the second consecutive overtime victory for his squad, who look a lot stronger heading into this weekend’s road contest at Manhattan College.
“We’re 2-2 now and… we all got positive vibes and we’re just ready to beat Manhattan,” said Sienkiel.
“This was the smartest game we’ve played so far this year,” said Viggiano, who knows his team are now “back in the mix” for MAAC contention.
Though sitting in sixth in the conference standings, the Red Foxes have begun to dig themselves out of their own hole.
“We’ve kind of finally found the right mix,” said Viggiano, “hopefully we can start rolling and run with it.”
Edited by Bridget Reilly