Hoping to end their disappointing season on a high note, men’s soccer took down Mount St. Mary’s by a score of 4-1 to clinch the program’s fourth consecutive winning season.
The pressure was off for Marist (7-6-4), who came into the match with nothing at stake other than a winning record, with the team having already been eliminated from postseason contention over the weekend after drawing with Fairfield in a must-win matchup. Mount St. Mary’s (7-9-1) entered play technically still alive in the postseason picture, with the odds being stacked against them due to needing a win along with some help.
If one thing has remained constant throughout Marist’s season of ups and downs, it’s been the shuffling of players in and out of the lineup. It was only fitting to see it happen one final time on Wednesday night, with senior midfielder Liam Salmon and graduate student center back German Fuentes returning from their one-game absences and senior defender Henrique Cruz riding the pine after exiting for part of the previous match with an injury.
Despite yet another wrinkle in the lineup, it wouldn’t take long for the scoring to get underway, with Marist taking advantage of one of the first opportunities of the game in the 11th minute. Graduate student midfielder Jacob Schulman slithered through the defense and up the right side until he nearly reached the Mountaineers’ end line, drawing junior goalkeeper Ethan Russell out from his spot and towards the ball.
Schulman, nearly out of space and sensing the defense closing in, gingerly tapped the ball to his left; somehow, it managed to roll through the defenders in the middle and right into the waiting legs of junior left wing Jared Juleau, who was positioned perfectly in front of the left post. From there, Juleau deposited the ball into the wide-open net, giving Marist a 1-0 lead and pushing Juleau into the team lead for goals scored (five) and points (15).
“As soon as I came here, it felt like home,” said Juleau, who transferred to Marist from St. John’s prior to this season. “As soon as I stepped onto the field, [my teammates] embraced me really good, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”
Juleau almost added to his point total again in the 20th minute when he sent a ball in from the left side to sophomore defender Andre Culter-DeJesus, who was stationed near the right post. Cutler-DeJesus headed the ball to the left, forcing Russell to dive back in the other direction, which he did just in time to make the save.
Marist again threatened in the 21st minute when Salmon, who was near the left corner of the goal area, sent a well-struck shot towards the lower left corner of the goal, but Russell was able to get down low to make another save. Getting yet another opportunity in the 26th minute, Salmon would come through on a close-range shot taken from the right side, with the shot sneaking past Russell low and to the left, giving him his second score of the year and the Red Foxes a 2-0 lead.
Fuentes tried his best to push the lead to three with 13 minutes left in the first half, ripping off a blistering long-range shot from the right side that just barely missed, instead clanging off of the upper part of the left post. Despite the miss, it was clear the Red Foxes had dominated the first half, with Mount St. Mary’s failing to generate much of anything offensively to counter the constant Marist attack.
The Red Foxes picked up in the second half where they left off, blitzing the Mountaineers on a litany of possessions that almost resulted in goals. This included another near-miss from Fuentes in the 55th minute on a shot taken from beyond the 18 that just missed slipping inside of the right post.
The agonizingly close-but-not-quite-enough theme continued a minute later when Salmon found himself with the ball directly in front of the goal with Russell having already fallen to the ground–had Salmon struck the ball with the right amount of touch, he could’ve easily drained the shot, but he drilled the ball and missed high by the thinnest of margins.
Still, the 2-0 lead felt like a 5-0 lead not just because of the many opportunities for Marist, but also because of the glaring lack of opportunities for Mount St. Mary’s. Their lack of offense is nothing new; entering today, the Mountaineers had been shut out in four of their last five matches, all of which were in MAAC conference play.
Eventually, Juleau made the scoreboard more reflective of the game at hand, cementing his place atop the Marist offensive leaderboard by notching another goal in the 70th minute. This time, the shot was drilled from near the 18 on the left side. Marist continued pouring it on just a few minutes later; this time it was a team effort, with junior midfielder Justin Rodriguez and Schulman assisting senior defender Matt Newfield on a shot that was headed into the goal from in front of the left post.
Both Newfield and Rodriguez had received sparse playing time prior to tonight, making the score extra sweet for the pair of Marist veterans. Such a team-wide offensive performance was exactly what the doctor ordered, with Marist racking up 10 corner kicks before the 80th minute.
The Mountaineers would finally get on the board with under seven minutes remaining, when junior midfielder Jesus Salazar netted his fifth goal of the year on a free kick that slipped through a wall of players. The late score ended the shut-out bid in Samuel Ilin’s final collegiate match; the 2021 MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year and 2021 MAAC champion still had a solid performance to end his career, notching five saves.
“Listen, there’s a lot of champions in that room, and they put on the performance that I asked them to put on tonight,” said head coach Matt Viggiano, who was visibly emotional after the match. “We’re gonna be back, no doubt about that… I’m already looking forward to next year, I’m gonna miss the hell out of these guys.”
The Red Foxes will now turn their attention to the offseason and all that lies ahead. Viggiano plans on starting the process of getting back to work with his players as soon as next week, with the focus being on returning to the heights of years past.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Kira Crutcher