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Building Confidence: Colonials beat Purdue Fort Wayne, 1-0, for first Horizon League win

Photo courtesy of Robert Morris University athletics

From Robert Morris University athletic department report 

Robert Morris’ men’s soccer team earned its first ever win as members of the Horizon League Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 victory over the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons at SouthPointe Fieldhouse.

Miller Masson scored the deciding goal for the Colonials, his first of the year and first of the season for RMU.

Goalkeeper Mike Zolnierczyk made four saves and kept his second consecutive clean sheet to earn the win in goal.

“It feels great,” head coach Jason O’Keefe said.  “We’ve been putting a lot of work in, and seeing some progress slowly but surely. Anytime there’s a transition, you bring in new standards and new expectations, and sometimes they get it and sometime they don’t but lately we’ve been very focused and hungry for a win and a goal and that’s what our focus was all week.”

The Colonials outlasted the Mastodons in what was a very intense, emotional showdown with a still-new conference rival for RMU.

Enjoying an early advantage in posession, PFW tested Zolnierczyk early with a pair of chances in quick succession from Mathias Mikalsen and Emil Fosse, however the sophomore was well-positioned to make both stops.

RMU survived a corner in the 26′ as well to help stem the push early from PFW.

“Soccer all-together is a game of highs and lows,” Zolnierczyk said.  “You’ve got to learn to keep yourself composed, and we have a great group of guys here that have put a lot of work in and were confident coming into the game and came out and executed.”

Things got testy as the opening half wore down.  Despite a pair of yellow cards on the Mastodons, RMU still found themselves at a significant disadvantage on fouls after 45 minutes of play.

Two more on the Colonials to start the second led to another scoring chance from Ali Nasser, but Zolnierczyk again made the save.

Slowly but surely the Colonials began to generate their fare share of possession, breaking into the attacking third of the field with increasing regularity and nearly going up 1-nil on a strike from Ethan Romito.

Masson finally put the Colonials on the board in the 62′, collecting a feed from Lorenzo Guagneli inside the box before slotting home a firm strike into the lower righthand corner of the net for RMU’s first goal of the game and first lead of the season.

“It was really just great team goal,” Masson said.  “Ethan picks the ball off, sends it to Jon, Jon sends it to Lore who flicks it to me on the back post and I was just lucky enough to be there to put it in. I’ve got to give it to my teammates on that one.”

Spurred on by Masson’s marker, the Colonials pushed the pace even harder over the final 30 minutes, hunting a second goal while putting in the work to limit PFW on the counter.

A dangerous looking volley from just outside the box with time winding down almost saw the Mastodons equalize, however the shot struck the post and stayed out as the Colonials locked up their first victory under O’Keefe.

“I think after being in last game and then this one, it’s helped us to be confident that what we’re doing is working. We just have to keep working, do a little bit more and be a little cleaner in the attacking half. I’m hoping the guys grow in confidence but at the same time we’ve got to stay with our feet on the ground,” O’Keefe said.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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