Men’s Soccer Avenges MAAC Championship Loss Versus Rider

Dave NigroMonmouth men’s soccer defeated hOURglass rivals Rider in a rematch of last year’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship by a score of 1-0 at Hesse Field on The Great Lawn last Wednesday night.

“I’m just happy for the boys to get the three points. We’ve all been working so hard and it’s just great for everybody to put in ninety minutes and get what we deserve, to be honest,” said senior goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky, who made seven saves en route to a clean sheet versus Rider.

Both sides exchanged scoring chances within the first 10 minutes of the match. Monmouth junior midfielder Jake Areman sent in a corner kick, but sophomore defender Daniel Figarella’s header flew wide past the left side of the goal. Shortly after, Rider senior midfielder Adrien Huss saw his shot land wide left of the net as well. Additionally, senior midfielder Colin Stripling saw one of his headers miss the target and one of them saved for the Hawks in the first period.

In the second half, both sides went shot-for-shot creating chances, yet were unable to take an advantage over the other. Overall, both Monmouth and Rider registered thirteen shots, Rider having one more than the hosts with eight.

Monmouth turned up the pressure in the last ten minutes with plenty of possession around the penalty area, seeing a shot saved and another Stripling header go wide. The Hawks were rewarded for their efforts with less than three minutes to go in the match.

After a cross into the box was cleared by the Rider defense, the hosts sent another ball into area in which senior forward David Nigro connected with, but his shot was right at junior goalkeeper Ryan Baird. Baird was unable to corral the shot, which leaked out in front of him. Figarella was there to pounce on the loose ball, emphatically smashing it into the back of the net from point-blank range to give the Hawks the lead.

After wild celebrations, Monmouth’s composure was tested when Rider ran right up the other end of the pitch and caused worry with a flurry of shots on goal. Within seconds, the visitors had three shots saved by Klenofsky and one blocked before Monmouth finally cleared the danger.

With time expiring, sophomore midfielder Jalil Blalock squandered a chance to double the Hawks lead on a counter-attack. Shortly after, the whistle blew, crowning Monmouth victorious.

Since Klenofsky’s return to the lineup, Monmouth have only conceded two goals in four matches. The goalkeeper’s triple save at the end of the game on Wednesday night was crucial in securing the win.

“His [Klenofsky] presence is unbelievable; he’s like having another coach out there. People just naturally feel confident with him behind them,” said Monmouth Head Coach Robert McCourt. “He’s playing with a cast on, it shows the character of him and he hasn’t missed a practice session even when he’s injured the whole time.”

Rider, who fell to 6-3-1 on the season and 1-1-1 in the MAAC with the loss, entered the match versus Monmouth ranked 30th in’s National Rankings. The last time the two sides faced each other was in the MAAC championship just over a year ago, where Rider ran out 3-2 winners.

“Last year did not end the way that it was supposed to and we definitely made this personal. We go into every game with the same approach but there was definitely a little extra fire behind tonight,” said Klenofsky.

Monmouth struck gold once again this past Saturday at Niagara, where they defeated the Purple Eagles by a score of 1-0. Nigro scored his fourth goal of the season with a header in the tenth minute, and the Hawks defense was able to keep the hosts quiet for the remainder of the game to lock up the win.

“The boys worked tremendously hard for 90 minutes and really earned the three points,” said McCourt after the match.

This past week, Klenofsky and Nigro were awarded MAAC Defensive and Offensive Player of the Week for their efforts, respectively.

Monmouth men’s soccer returns to action this afternoon at 3 p.m., where they will face Siena on the road in Loudonville, NY.

PHOTO COURTESY of Mark Brown/B51 Photography