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Robert Morris men pick up first win of season

Photo courtesy Robert Morris men's soccer

Robert Morris men pick up first win of season

FINAL: Robert Morris 2, California Baptist 1

From Robert Morris University Athletic Department report

Moon Township, PA – On a sweltering Thursday afternoon that surely made the visitors from California Baptist feel at home, the Robert Morris University men’s soccer team brought the heat late, rallying from a goal down to seize its first victory of 2019, 2-1.

BOX SCORE | PETITTI INTERVIEW

Sophomore Riccardo Rota scored the decider, a 74th-minute header off a pinpoint cross from freshman Michael Petitti, giving the Colonials (1-4-0) their first lead of the season.

Rota’s second career NCAA goal touched off a wild celebration on the home bench, a welcome sight for anyone wearing red, white and blue at the North Athletic Complex. RMU had been outscored 14-2 entering Thursday, most recently losing 3-1 at La Salle on Saturday.

“We’ve been thinking about this game for a week,” Rota said. “We wanted to have a great showing.”

Added Petitti, who picked up his first RMU point on the play: “To be in front for the first time, it felt great.”

Compared to the Colonials’ first four matches, this one had a different feel. While they did concede the first goal for the fifth straight time, they battled the Lancers (1-3-1) to a scoreless draw at the half, the first time this season the Colonials didn’t trail at the break.

Even after a giveaway in the 65th minute put California Baptist ahead on Reuben Dass’ tidy finish, RMU’s increased intensity was evident.

“We haven’t been working hard enough,” head coach Bill Denniston said. “Today, we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better.”

RMU didn’t trail for long, as freshman Ethan Romito served a long ball into the CBU box that caromed into the net off Lancers defender Tim Bernhardsson in the 72nd minute.

Lucky or not, the Colonials had a breakthrough, which they doubled down on just two minutes later when Petitti worked his way into some open space 30 yards from goal. Rota made his run to the back post, nodding the ball sharply from point-blank range.

The game was far from over at that point, but the Colonials scrambled to hold the Lancers to just six shot attempts in the second half, with only two of those on frame.

“It was the closest game all season, so we were just really hungry to get the win,” Petitti said. “We were better on second balls. We were causing more problems (on the attack). We were tight with them defensively, not letting them have time and space.”

The rally made a winner of sophomore transfer goalkeeper Grant Glorioso. The North Allegheny grad stopped just two shots, as his defenders blocked or deflected a few CBU chances, but he did well in cutting off crosses and preventing any spills in his box. When the Lancers’ Linus Månsson skied a rebound chance in the final moments, the coast was clear to clinch the victory.

“For me, we didn’t do anything yet,” Rota said. “We have to be ready for the conference. We have to keep our heads up.”

There are three matches to go before Northeast Conference play begins, but the good thing for RMU is this: They’ve just begun a program record-tying six-match homestand, so the opportunity is there to go on a run.

“We’ve got to try to win most of those games,” Denniston said. “Then you get a little confidence before you go to conference play. Last year we had a really bad start and turned it around.”

Indeed, the 2018 Colonials began 0-5-1 before winning six of 11 to barely miss out on the NEC tournament. This year’s team has avoided digging that big of a hole, with Sunday afternoon’s match against Longwood serving as their next chance to earn a positive result. 

Until then, they’ll savor the chance to smile. Especially since they had to sweat for it.

“I think we were hungrier,” Rota said. “We have to keep going.”

 

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