Marist men’s soccer notched a key late-season victory thanks to none other than Richard Morel, who scored the decisive goals in a 3-1 win.
The junior forward chipped in his team-leading fourth and fifth goals to catalyze a comeback effort; graduate student defender Torge Witteborge also contributed with a key goal.
Marist entered the match still sitting in postseason position at fourth in the conference with 11 points. Adding to their point total at this juncture of the season is imperative; Coming in, fifth-place Rider was on their heels with eight points and added three more points to tie Marist as the day unfolded. Third-place Siena was also still within reach with 15 points. Most recently, the Red Foxes came up empty in a home match on Wednesday night, falling to first-place Iona 1-0.
Canisius entered play in dire straits, as the Golden Griffins were still winless in MAAC play. For Canisius to have any shot at postseason play, they needed to win today, win their final two matches and receive some help. Their most recent match was a 2-2 draw with Rider on Wednesday afternoon, as they managed to salvage the game after trailing by two at the half.
Canisius received their first quality chance of the day in the 11th minute. Junior forward Ely Sidibe weaved through the Marist backline inside the box and fired off a close-range shot, but it veered left. Sidibe has been a bright spot with three goals scored this season, and it was clear the Golden Griffins made a concerted effort to feed him the ball in the early going.
Marist nearly got on the board with a shot on goal in the 16th minute when freshman defender Nicholas Sanchez threaded the ball through the defense and up to Morel, who was stationed in the middle. Morel sent a strong shot to the left, but graduate student goalkeeper Spencer Catalano made the lunging save for the Golden Griffins.
Canisius took the lead in the 24th minute on a well-executed set piece. Sophomore midfielder Kyle Pollard sent in an accurate free kick from the right side up to freshman midfielder Dylan Rice, who poked the ball in for his third collegiate goal, giving the Golden Griffins a 1-0 lead.
Canisius had a chance minutes later to double up the lead; Freshman defender Kevin Villacorta sent a low shot to the right that forced Marist goalkeeper Luca Bulfon to lunge for the ball, which ultimately bounced back into play. Sidibe collected the rebound and had a golden opportunity to catch Bulfon out of position, but he airmailed his own close-range shot.
The missed opportunity proved to be costly, as Marist evened the score just moments later in the 29th minute. A Marist corner kick from freshman midfielder Adam Rustami ended up near the back post; a pass inside gave Morel the ball directly in the middle, and he deposited it past Catalano for his fourth score of the season to tie the score at 1-1.
The Red Foxes continued their surge, using another corner kick to score their second goal within a five-minute span. Sophomore midfielder Skyler Cunha’s corner kick found Witteborg, who headed the ball in for his first goal of the year, making it 2-1 Marist with 10 minutes remaining in the half.
Sanchez reeled off a strong shot from close range a few minutes later, but Catalano made an impressive save for Canisius, elevating and tipping the ball out of play to keep the deficit at one with eight minutes remaining in the half.
“We conceded twice on corner kicks, it’s part of the game, but maybe not a true reflection of how the half went, I thought we played well,” said Canisius head coach Michael Tanke during the ESPN halftime report.
Bulfon did his part to preserve the lead in the second half, making a diving save with 30 minutes remaining on another shot from Sidibe to keep the score intact.
Rustami tried his best to extend the lead in the 66th minute, cascading past multiple defenders on the right side toward goal, but Catalano deflected his shot to make the save. Freshman forward Kyle Evans also had a close-range chance a few minutes later, but he made one too many moves with the ball before attempting a shot, allowing the Canisius defenders to catch up with him.
Morel put the finishing touches on the victory in the 87th minute, with a slick cutback move on the left side setting him up to unfurl a scathing shot that found the back net for his team-leading fifth score of the season; Marist now led 3-1.
With two matches remaining in regular season play, Marist returns to Poughkeepsie for a pivotal home date with Rider next Saturday at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Kira Crutcher