It isn’t often that a five-goal thriller isn’t the main story of a soccer match, but that’s what occurred as Marist lost 3-2 at home to Iona College on Wednesday, October 6th. There were 34 fouls called on the night, one every 2.6 minutes, 18 fouls for Marist and 16 for Iona.
“The first half we kinda got emotional and they were trying to take us off our game.” said head coach Matt Viggiano. “Their assistant was talking about how everybody’s coming for us because they saw what we did to Quinnipiac on Saturday.”
Marist nearly got off to a flying start when junior midfielder Antek Sienkel was played through on goal two minutes into the match, but his low-driven shot was saved by Iona goalkeeper Zach Nelson
Iona would fail to register a shot in the opening ten minutes, mainly in part thanks to multiple attack-breaking tackles from freshman defender Andre Cutler-DeJesus, playing in the heart of Marist’s midfield alongside junior midfielder Henrique Cruz.
Fifteen minutes into the match, Marist broke the deadlock thanks to senior midfielder Skylar Conway. Conway capitalized on a loose ball inside Iona’s penalty area, turned swiftly onto his strong foot, and placed his effort right into the top right corner. It was Conway’s second goal in as many games, and the assist was credited to freshman striker Richard Morel
Marist nearly doubled their lead shortly after when Cruz drove into the box and found junior Stefan Copetti, but the right-winger blazed his shot well over the bar.
Copetti would be made to rue his missed effort when Iona’s Inigo Zabella Gonzalez drew the match level at 1-1 from a corner kick. Marist had gone from being nearly 2-0 up to finding themselves level just minutes later at 1-1.
But just seven minutes later, Copetti would finally have his goal when his twisting shot found its way through the legs of Iona’s goalkeeper, who had just made a diving stop to deny Skylar Conway from having his second.
Iona would have an equalizer seven minutes before the half-time interval. Iona’s Camil Azzam Ruiz fired a shot from outside the box into the bottom right corner that had Marist’s senior goalkeeper Sam Ilin rooted to his spot.
Finally, the intensity of the game got out of hand for referee Victor Borges at times, as he had to meet with his assistant referees and Marist’s coach Matt Viggiano while facing an onslaught of boos from the home crowd.
“I just didn’t appreciate the fact that one of their guys was play-acting and trying to get one of my guys red carded,” Coach Viggiano commented on his discussion with the referee. “I don’t teach my guys to do that. It shouldn’t be a part of the game. I just told him he needed to be aware that’s what they were trying to do.”
Despite dominating the first half proceedings, Marist found themselves level with Iona 2-2. The Red Foxes had eight shots to Iona’s five, with both teams having four shots on target. The lack of clinical finishing was the reason Marist wasn’t in the lead in the half.
Whether it was instructions from Viggiano or the inspiration from Flo Rida’s Low ft. T-Pain playing on the loudspeakers, Marist nearly retook the lead a minute after the halftime break. A clever outside-the-foot pass found from Copetti went to Morel just in front of goal, but his touch let him down and Iona were able to clear the danger.
Marist found themselves lucky to not be 3-2 down nearly 15 minutes into the second half. Iona’s Camil Azzam Ruiz played a brilliant reverse ball through Marist’s defensive line, but Zabella Gonzalez tapped his shot just wide of the post.
Tensions would continue to bubble when the referee issued a yellow card to a member of Iona’s coaching staff, and suddenly Borges found himself in good graces with the Marist supporters.
Despite his best efforts, Conway’s search for a second goal would go on. The #10 received the ball on the edge of the box and aimed a shot at the bottom left corner, but his shot didn’t have enough bend on it and it fizzed past the post.
Marist went on the offensive again when junior midfielder Liam Salmon drove through the Iona defense with a favorable bounce, but couldn’t catch his strike cleanly as it went out for a goal kick. Once again, Marist had found themselves with a good opportunity but couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the 78th minute, Iona took a late lead when Azzam Ruiz had his second goal of the night directly from a free kick outside the box. The foul that led to the free kick was the 18th from Marist alone.
With four minutes to go, fouls continuing to pour in, and the intensity kicking up five notches a second, Copetti was inches away from equalizing but his header crashed off the crossbar and Iona kept hold of the lead.
With the clock ticking and the crowd’s last breaths getting longer, Marist goalkeeper Ilin would have the last shot of the night, his header from a corner glanced wide of the post.
With the number of fouls on the night, it was no surprise that tensions would blow over and the two teams would come to scraps after the final whistle. Things were cleared up quickly, and the start of a potential rivalry between Marist and Iona began to brew.
“My opinion is that I hope we see them again,” said Coach Viggiano about Iona. “I think emotionally we got a little too excited and charged up, I do feel like we gave one away tonight.”
Marist had 17 shots in total but only four on target, while Iona was more accurate with 12 shots and seven on target.
“It basically came down to maturity at the end of it,” said Conway. “Also probably fatigue I’d say.”
Marist (5-5-1) will now travel to New Jersey to play St. Peters (3-7) on Saturday, October 9th at 2 p.m.
Edited by Bridget Reilly
Photo Credit: Bridget Reilly