RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande opened Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play Saturday night with a 4-0 win over rival Point Park University at Evan E. Davis Field.
Rio Grande, ranked No. 5 in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll, improved to 8-0 overall and 1-0 in the KIAC.
Point Park, which received votes in the same preseason poll, dropped to 4-3-1 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Junior Heitor de Melo gave the RedStorm a first half lead with his second goal of the year, while juniors Willian Paulino and Alex Haddad and freshman Ben Mendoza tallied second half markers in the victory.
Rio Grande outshot Point Park, which defeated the RedStorm in regular season play last year, 14-3 in the first half, putting pressure on the Pioneers’ defense and not allowing their guests to establish an offensive rhythm.
de Melo, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, started the scoring at the 29:21 mark of the first half when he pushed a shot past PPU goalkeeper Zak Borzovoy, who failed to corral a save of junior Jeremy de Hoog’s (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) shot seconds earlier.
Unlike Wednesday night’s win over Bryan (Tenn.) College, the intensity of the RedStorm did not drop off in the second half, with Rio outshooting the Pioneers, 22-4, after the intermission.
At the 64:33 mark, Paulino (Sao Paulo, Brazil) kicked in a goal off a blocked shot by senior Luiz Filho (Sao Paulo, Brazil) to make it 2-0. It was his team-high seventh goal on the season.
Later on in the half, Mendoza (Chichester, England) entered the match for the first time and soon scored off a great pass from Haddad (Gallipolis, Ohio) at the 78:57 mark. The goal was the second of Mendoza’s collegiate career and the assist was Haddad’s first of the year.
Rio’s fourth and final goal came when sophomore Spencer Reinford (McAlisterville, PA) assisted Haddad on his first goal of the season at the 86:25 mark in the match.
The match was a gritty, physical affair throughout with 43 combined common fouls – 25 against the RedStorm and 18 against Point Park – whistled.
There was also eight cautions handed out, including two yellow cards against Point Park’s Cristian Mika, which resulted in his ejection and forced the Pioneers to play the final 41:37 of the contest one man down.
Freshman Ben Martinez (Montpellier, France) recorded three saves in his fourth shutout effort of the year.
Borzovoy had a season-high 14 saves in a losing cause for PPU.
Rio Grande will return to action on Wednesday, taking to the road for the just the second time this year with a trip to Mount Vernon Nazarene. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.
Evan Jones is a correspondent with the University of Rio Grande sports information department.