It all seemed so straightforward – a talented team with title aspirations hosting a bottom-dwelling team who has managed a single win in 14 tries.
But Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory in double-overtime for the Marist Men’s Soccer team over the Monmouth Hawks was anything but straightforward.
Regardless of the result, the Red Foxes played down to their 1-11-2 opponents. Monmouth came into this game as the second-worst team in the conference and they were visibly inferior to the skill and pace of Marist. Head coach Matt Viggiano knew it wouldn’t be an easy game, noting that no game in the MAAC is ever easy.
He pointed out, as an example of the parity in the conference, that four of the five MAAC games tonight went to overtime. “I mean there’s talent from top to bottom. Credit to our guys, we’re 5-3 now, so we found a way. And if you think about it, we’ve won five of our last six,” Viggiano said in an optimistic and perhaps relieved manner.
Unfortunately for Viggiano and his squad, their fundamental skill and technical ability were not enough to compete for large parts of the game. Monmouth doubled the home team’s tally for shots on goal and had nearly double the amount of corner kick opportunities.
The performance forced sophomore goalkeeper Sam Ilin to make a career-high 10 saves in an effort to keep the Hawks off the board.
Ilin is one of the biggest reasons this Red Fox team is now just one point outside of second place. Saves such as this have kept Marist in the game when they were in search of that game-winning spark.
Though it may not have looked like it would happen tonight, that spark did come not two minutes into the second overtime period. Following some of his own delicate work along the endline, junior Allen Gavilanes powered a loose ball home to capture the three points.
“When you have a special ability like he does and you have talent, all it takes is one,” said Viggiano about the game winner. “You can mark that guy for 90 minutes, it takes 10 seconds and he gets loose.”
While the result is everything they wanted, it was no smooth sailing for Marist to get there.
“I thought we were a little flat tonight, lacked a little bit of urgency,” Viggiano said. “Obviously I think it’s really easy for the guys to sit and look at the record of the other team and think it’s going to be easy. Just kind of human nature. But championship teams find a way to win.”
Viggiano has never talked about his team in any other context than being a championship-caliber team. So, one might look at this game as a worrying sign of a team playing below their level and form dipping. But there is an alternative point of view that recognizes this is a team that has played a lot of soccer on short rest.
The Red Foxes have played two games per week each of the past three weeks. Of those six games, four have gone to overtime and two of those to double overtime.
The schedule congestion does not stop either, as they finish up their regular season playing at Iona on Saturday and then at home against Canisius on Wednesday.
These matchups will be true tests of what the Red Foxes are made of, facing the best and the worst teams in the MAAC, respectively. It will be prime time for Marist to prove they belong at the top and they will endeavor to claim a home game or even a first round bye for the upcoming MAAC tournament.
Edited by Bridget Reilly