Zolnierczyk stands tall, Masson nets first team goal as Colonials get first Horizon League win


Men’s soccer celebrates its first Horizon League goal and Miller Masson’s first collegiate goal in their 1-0 victory over Purdue Fort Wayne. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Tyler Gallo, Sports Editor

CANONSBURG, Pa.– It had been 498 days, five total games and 570 in-game minutes since Robert Morris men’s soccer had a lead or won a game, but that streak was finally snapped today as the Colonials (1-2-1, 1-2-1 Horizon) knocked off fellow conference newcomer Purdue Fort Wayne (2-3, 2-3) 1-0 for their first conference victory at the Southpointe Fieldhouse in Canonsburg.

The win was also head coach Jason O’Keefe’s first since he became head coach of Robert Morris this summer. He spoke on how great getting the win was.

“We’ve been putting a lot of work in and seeing some progress, slowly but surely,” O’Keefe said. “There is a lot of new things we are bringing to the table. The guys have been focused and hungry for a win and a goal, and that is what our focus was all week.”

The first ten minutes of the contest went by without a hitch as the teams battled for position. Purdue Fort Wayne’s Mathias Mikalsen fired a shot at the 3′ mark, but Mike Zolnierczyk turned it aside. The Colonials followed by breaking into the zone on their own as Lorenzo Guagneli found Miller Masson, but the shot was blocked.

At the 15′ mark, Mikalsen received a beautiful set-up pass and attempted to head it in, but Zolnierczyk once again stood tall. A shot by Emil Fosse at 17′ followed with Zolnierczyk making another stop.

The Colonials lined up for a free-kick at 31′ and Michael Petitti heaved a long bomb towards Mastodons’ goaltender Erik Josson, but it was merely a pop-fly that landed in his outstretched arms.

The best chance for either side came at 34′ when PFW’s Nemanja Gvodzic had a fast-break, but he hooked the shot wide left of Zolnierczyk.

RMU and PFW played a scoreless remainder of the half with both sides exchanging possessions.

In the second half, the Colonials had a chance to break the scoreless tie early on, receiving a corner, but nothing came of it as the Mastodons cleared it.

At 52′ Riccardo Rota received a foul, leading to a free-kick just outside of the box. Zolnierczyk made another save, and the ensuing corner kick resulted in a clear by Robert Morris.

A bout of consistent offensive pressure followed, and the Colonials finally got their first Horizon League lead and goal thanks to Guagneli once again finding Masson. Masson buried it for his first collegiate goal and the bench and team went crazy and the Colonials led for the first time since they beat Saint Francis 5-1 on October 25, 2019.

Masson was happy to get the goal, but mentioned that it was a great team effort that led to him scoring.

“It was a great team goal,” Masson said. “Ethan [Romito] picked the ball off, sent it to Jon [Faynik] who chipped it to Lorenzo [Guagneli], and Lorenzo flicked it to me on the back post and I was lucky enough to be there and get the easy tap-in, but I have to give it to the team for that one.”

Lorenzo Guagneli followed with another tough shot, but Josson stopped this one instead. The Colonials kept putting up the pressure in the continuing minutes, not letting the Mastodons sustain any time on attack.

Robert Morris maintained its lockdown defense as several fouls went against them. Even with the Mastodons upping their pressure at the end and a few calls going against Robert Morris, the team hung on and won its first Horizon League game and Jason O’Keefe’s first victory as a coach.

Goalkeeper Mike Zolnierczyk faced nine total shots, stopping all four that were on goal and netting his second straight shutout. He was happy with the team’s effort in front of him in an emotional game.

“It was a great team effort today, [especially] getting our first Horizon League win,” Zolnierczyk said. “We have to keep it rolling into next week against UIC. Soccer is a game of highs and lows, and you have to learn to keep yourself composed [in a game like this]. We were confident coming into the game, and that helped.”

Robert Morris will be in action next Friday in the Windy City when they take on UIC in Chicago.