February 1, 2024
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - There is little doubt that the Rochester Lancers have emerged as the team to beat in the Major Arena Soccer League 2's North Division.
They have won each of their opening three matches by decent margins.
They return to the Total Sports Experience in East Rochester, N.Y. to face Atletico Orlando in their home opener on Friday, Feb. 2 at 7:45 p.m. The two teams will meet again, at the same venue and time, on Saturday, Feb. 3.
Forward Taner Bay, who has scored seven goals, can't wait to play the team's first home matches of the season.
"We feed off the crowd energy as much as our own energy so that they're cheering for us," he said. "It will be nice not be traveling, being home for the weekend, with everybody - family and friends - coming to support and giving us that extra boost."
Atletico Orlando (1-1-0, 3 points) will play all of its games on the road this season.
"Everything that I've seen and what the coaches have been telling us getting prepared for the next game is that they're going to be another physical athletic and fast team," Bay told the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show on Monday night. "They're going to come and try to bring it. And especially on the smaller field, we're going to have to be ready for some physical contact."
Using their speed, quickness and skill, the first-place Lancers (3-0-0, 9) have been impressive on both sides of the ball. They have outscored the opposition by a 36-16 margin. They have reached double figures in goals in every match. Their goal differential is plus 20 in the 12-team league, trailing only the Iowa Demon Hawks (plus 56) and Wichita Wings (plus 31). Iowa and Wichita already have played in seven and six matches, respectively.
In its most recent match, an 11-6 win over United Elite Krajisnik FC in Utica, N.Y. on Sunday, Jan. 28, Rochester stumbled to a rather slow start as the hosts raced to a 3-0 advantage.
"We didn't go on with the mindset knowing the week before we beat them," Bay said, referring to the 11-6 away victory in Utica on Jan. 21. "We just came out flat and not with the energy. If you don't come out with the energy and the passion to go out and play, any team can take it to you and hit you in the mouth like they did to us."
It certainly was a wake-up call. Despite facing a 5-3 deficit in the third quarter, the Lancers rebounded with one of their best surges in the team's indoor history, connecting for nine goals in a blazing second half.
"We regrouped at halftime," Bay said. "The biggest thing wasn't that we didn't have to change really any tactics. We lost some players like Joey [Tavernese to an injury] early. ... The biggest thing was just coming out and actually competing and wanting to be there."
Bay, who is tied with Ali Alomari and Joey Tavernese for the team lead in goal-scoring with seven apiece, led the comeback with a second-half hat-trick.
It certainly hasn't hurt that a bulk of last year's 8-4 team that barely missed out on the playoffs has returned.
"We take pride in that camaraderie," Bay said. "We're practicing twice a week. It's a lot of local guys. We all have the privilege of being able to play together. We enjoy that and enjoy hanging out even outside of soccer, whether it's after games and going on a road trip. I think it all ties into just better sportsmanship and fighting for each other on the field.
"I know for me alone just coming into games, I'm a little more comfortable in the sense that I'm not as worried, 'Do I have to move this way? How do I help support my teammate here?’ Because that comes more naturally with the experience from last year. You can focus more on, how can I attack and be effective, and just keep moving it so we can keep it and get the other team tired."
After three games, it has worked quite well.
A native of Webster, the 24-year-old Bay is studying for a second career. He enjoyed a standout career at Rider University in which he earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and academic honors, while majoring in biochemistry.
When he isn’t involved in soccer, Bay is a medical scribe for two surgeons in the Rochester area and has become New York State EMT certified.
The 6-foot, 173-lb. Bay is in the midst of applying to medical schools. He has been accepted into a Buffalo medical school, with pending interviews in the next month with at least two other schools.
"I'm looking to become ideally some kind of sports medicine, orthopedics, maybe like a sports team doctor going forward," he said.
Asked if a soccer team would be his first choice, Bay replied, "Absolutely. Getting hooked up with one of the big teams and see where things go."
After this weekend's games, Rochester will have a three-week break between games.
The Lancers will return to the great indoors at home, welcoming Baltimore Arsenal on Feb. 23-24, Atletico Orlando on March 8-9, and Krajisnik FC on March 22-23. The team also has one final away game at Baltimore on March 16.
For more information about the team, visit www.RochesterLancers.com.