By Jack Belanger ’21
Despite it being their first NCAA Tournament game since 2016, the Providence College Men’s Soccer Team looked like a team that was no stranger to playing on the big stage. With only five players remaining from the 2016 team, the entire Friars’ roster gave incredible performances on both ends of the field. In their first ever match-up against the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, PC took an early lead and dominated the game for the full 90 minutes, winning 2-0 in their final game at Anderson Stadium for the season.
The Friars were on the attack from the get go. Less than 10 minutes into the first half, Trevor Davock ’20RS put one into the back of the net on a crossing pass from Christopher Roman ’22. The Friars would keep NJIT busy throughout the first half with seven shots on goal.
The Friars’ defense also had a great first half, allowing only three shots total with none on goal. NJIT did not test goaltender Austin Aviza ’20RS until 68 minutes into the game.
Despite several great scoring opportunities, PC would go into halftime with a 1-0 lead. While the game remained tight, captain Joao Serrano ’20RS knew the team would cash in on their opportunities eventually.
“We knew that we were going to keep getting chances,” said Serrano. “We just had to keep sharing the ball with each other and find the open man.”
With 37 minutes left in the second half, it looked like the Friars would score their second goal as Davock got another shot past the Highlander goalie, but it was called off due to an offside call.
Later, Esben Wolf ’23 put the Friars up 2-0 when he got the ball on the left side of the box and was able to get a close shot in just to the right of NJIT’s goalie. A few minutes earlier, he had a similar shot but missed just wide of the goal.
With 13 minutes left in the game, Gil Santos ’22 almost gave the Friars their third goal of the night. After running up the right side of the field, he made a sharp move to get free from his defender and got the open shot. Unfortunately his shot was directly at the goalie.
NJIT got their best chance to get on the board with eight minutes left. The Highlanders got a pass inside the box to give Joao Costa a chance for a header. His shot would just miss and hit off the left post. The Highlanders stepped up in the second half as they out-shot PC 8-5 in the final 45 minutes.
“They came on top of us in the second half,” said Aviza. “They were really prepared, but we did well with it. It really shows our commitment to play defense.”
The defense in front of Aviza locked down NJIT all night, as he only had to make two saves the entire game. The Friars made sure to stop Highlander Rene White, who scored 17 goals on the season and was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year. They limited him to only one shot.
After the game Serrano, one of the few remaining players from the 2016 season, made it clear the team is still hungry for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. “We got to make sure the guys keep pushing on and are on the same page. When guys show up on the field, they got to bring their best selves.”
The Friars now advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and will head to Pennsylvania State University on Sunday to play against the No. 15 seed Nittany Lions at 5 p.m.