Men’s soccer vies for playoff berth

RPI’s men’s soccer team started its games for the week with a match against league opponent Skidmore College on Wednesday in Saratoga Springs. Entering with a 1-3-2 record in Liberty League contests, RPI desperately needed a positive result against the Thoroughbreds.

Rensselaer started very strong and kept the pressure on Skidmore with a barrage of 12 shots in the first half. Two of them lead to RPI’s first goal of the match. Sophomore Will Mignon went on a breakaway after running past a pair of Thoroughbred defenders. His shot was saved, but senior Julian Coy was on hand to put the ball into the back of the net.

RPI was assured the win when junior Adam Updegrove hit a shot that found the back of the goal from over 20 yards out. The Engineers’ excellent defense meant that freshman goalie Rob Dewald only had to make one save to preserve the win and the shutout.

The all-around solid victory meant RPI now had a 6-4-3 overall record and a 2-3-2 record in the Liberty League, while Skidmore fell to 5-10-1 overall, 1-4-1 Liberty League. This kept the Engineers’ playoff hopes alive as they headed to play Bard College on Saturday at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., in another Liberty League clash.

Riding the momentum created by their offensive performance at Skidmore, the Engineers turned up the heat right away and began to control the game against Bard.

In the first half, RPI fired five shots at Bard senior goalkeeper Deven Connelly. However, the goalie only had to make one save. The second half saw even more pressure from RPI as the team continued to dominate possession and fired nine more shots toward the Bard goal. Connelly was still on form and made another four saves for the hosts.

The two overtime periods were no different as RPI launched seven more shots at Connelly. RPI’s best chance of the entire game came in the second overtime period following a corner kick. Updegrove collected the ball 12 yards out from the goal and shot towards the far post. However, Connelly finished his magnificent performance with a diving save to keep the game level.

The Engineers finished the game with 21 shots and a 6-4-4 overall (2-3-3 Liberty League) record, Bard went to 4-11-1 overall (0-6-1 Liberty League).

RPI’s final game of the week was a non-league game against Williams College at Renwyck Field. RPI tried to continue its offensive domination that had been a theme for their first two games of the week, but Williams was the team that was controlling the engagement. The visitors were in control for most of the first half and finished with seven shots, while RPI could only put together two attempts on goal.

The second half was no different except that Williams turned two of their chances into goals. The first came in the 52nd minute as Williams junior Peter Christman collected a rebound at the edge of the 18 yard box and fired a shot into the back of the net past Rob Dewald. Then in the 59th minute, Christman got his second tally of the game after sliding to tap-in a low cross across the face of goal.

The non-league loss dropped RPI’s overall record to 6-5-4, while Williams improved its record to 8-3-2. With a 2-3-3 record in the Liberty League, it will be very difficult for RPI to qualify for the playoffs. The match against Bard was the team’s last league game of the season, and they desperately needed the victory. RPI will need three things to happen to qualify for the playoffs: a Union College win over Vassar College, a Union tie with Skidmore, and a Bard victory against Vassar this week.

The Engineers finish the regular season with two games this week. Today, Rensselaer takes on Keene State College at 6:30 pm on Renwyck Field. Saturday, RPI heads to Rochester, N.Y., to battle Nazareth College at 11 am.