Rota’s header sends men’s soccer past California Baptist, 2-1


Photo credit: David Auth

Adam Melluso, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– The Robert Morris men’s soccer team (1-4) looked to finally get on the winning side of the ledger in their 2019-20 campaign as they faced off with the California Baptist University Lancers (1-2-1) on Thursday afternoon at the North Athletic Complex.

The Colonials controlled most of the early action in the opening half of play and had an early opportunity to take the lead at the 42-minute mark, but the ball couldn’t find its mark off the head of Ethan Romito. Despite the early and controlling play by RMU, CBU nearly struck for the first goal on a shot that flicked off the crossbar from Reuben Dass. The Colonials worked the ball into the slot moments afterward, but Christian Coridon’s arcing drive was unable to find the back of the net. A secondary corner chance moments later also yielded no results.

The Lancers continued the pressure into the 31st minute, but a long ball that found Sebastian Wiesböck failed to be successfully crossed into the box for a shot on RMU goalkeeper Grant Glorioso. The Lancers looked like they would have another opportunity to get the first marker of the match, but despite some nifty sifting work by CBU’s Dass again through the defense, RMU’s Oeyvind Skjesol was there to tackle the ball out of bounds at the edge of the box.

At just over the 25-minute mark, Wiesböck slid the ball in the box to Dass, who touched it to a wide open Brian Gonzales in the slot, but he put his shot just over the right corner of the net, further entrenching the back-and-forth-nature of the first half. Cristian Palermo worked the ball in tight and curled a shot towards CBU net minder Albert Escuin, but just couldn’t tuck it inside the left post.

CBU had another near-goal opportunity fall just short at under the 11-minute mark, when Daniel Simonsen sped down the left side of the pitch, but rang a shot clean off the left post and back out. The action remained back and forth until just under the two-minute mark in the half, as Christian Coridon collected a misplayed ball from the CBU defenders, danced into the box and tried to cut the ball to the right of Escuin, but ended up putting it off the outside of the netting mesh. Despite all the frequent back-and-forth efforts for both sides, the first half came to a close in a scoreless draw, 0-0.

The second half started with a bang for RMU as Jon Faynik broke free and was inches from getting the Colonials on the board, but just failed to get a foot free to take the shot. The action remained tense until just after the 25-minute mark when the aforementioned Dass found a loose ball, worked into the slot on a breakaway, and blasted the ball into the net to give CBU the 1-0 lead.

RMU worked tirelessly despite the deficit and at just under the 21-minute mark they got quite a lucky break as Ethan Romito’s cross deflected off of Reuben Dass and in past the keeper to even the score at one. And they weren’t done scoring just yet.

Just over three minutes after the tying goal, Michael Petitti broke down the right side and lobbed a perfect ball over to Riccardo Rota who banged home the header and with that the Colonials had new life with time winding down as they pulled into the lead 2-1.

From there, the Colonials were determined not to let the game slip through their fingers. They clamped down on defense, frustrating CBU’s offensive weapons at every turn, while also getting an occasional break, especially with four and a half minutes left on the clock, as the Lancers’ Linus Mansson had a glorious chance to draw his side even, but flung the ball clear over the top of the net and out of play, ensuring that RMU’s advantage remained intact.

The Colonials then broke the other way and Faynik nearly upped the RMU lead to two goals, but sent the ball past the top left corner of the net on a curling cross and out of play. The Colonials held on in the final seconds through some astounding slide clears from their defenders and firmly made a statement that they would not relinquish the game, and walked away with their first win of the season in the process.

Following the game, head coach Bill Denniston noted how his team’s performance has changed within the span of the last few games. “I think we’ve been so poor because we haven’t been working hard enough, and today we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better,” stated Denniston.

When asked about the keys needed for his team to better themselves and succeed over the upcoming long homestead at the NAC, Denniston continued, “I mean, first off you know with six in a row at home, which has never happened before, we gotta try to win most of those games, and then you get a little bit of confidence. Last year we had a really bad start, 0-4-1, and we turned it around and won six of our last 10, so we just gotta keep that going.”

California Baptist outshot the Colonials in final shots on target, 15-12. RMU’s next matchup, also at home, sees them take on Big South Conference member Longwood on Sunday, September 15th at 1:00 p.m. at the NAC.