For a while on Friday night Dominic Oduro just laid on the field at Sports Backers Stadium in kind of a one-man huddle.
He had just taken his fifth shot of the game. Had it gone in, it would have put an end to a 90-minute scoreless stalemate with a Hofstra team just a game away from the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Association standings. Instead the shot he took from just outside the 18-yard box went sailing about as many yards over the crossbar, and added 10 more minutes to the battle.
In the game’s 96th minute, Oduro picked himself up and made a run for it, streaking down the farside of the field and finding junior midfielder Brian Morris at midfield hanging out a couple of steps inside the big box. Morris sent his only shot of the game screaming by Pride goalkeeper Matthias Gubrecht and the Rams won the first of two CAA games last weekend.
Two days later after Evan Morris and Veit Schaidinger had already tagged Drexel keeper Jim Greco for a pair of goals, Oduro connected, heading a ball from Hugh MacDonald to himself, gathering it at his feet and beating Greco man-to-man. The goal gave the Rams a 3-0 win in what could have been the final home game the team’s four seniors.
But the team’s 5-1-0 record in the CAA is a game better than unbeaten James Madison, putting VCU in a position to host two CAA tournament games at Sports Backers later this season.
Coming into the weekend a game behind James Madison, the Rams moved a game ahead even though the Dukes won their only game of the weekend, a 4-0 nonconference win over Howard.
“Now they have the pressure on,” said Rams team captain Saul Montero. “They’ve got to fight through and see if they can do better than us. We just flipped the coin and put pressure on them and see how they react.”
Both teams will end their season on five-game road stretches, but while none of the remaining teams on VCU’s conference schedule have CAA records over .500, the Dukes have back-to-back games against William & Mary and Old Dominion, the two teams breathing down their neck in the standings.
The Rams won’t play another conference game until their Oct. 29 matchup with Delaware (0-5-0, 3-9-1). Their focus when they hit the practice field on Tuesday will be to knock off No. 21 Maryland next Saturday.
“They’re losing right now,” said senior Gonzalo Segares of the Terrapins, who have won three of their past four after a three-game skid earlier this season. “But they’re still the best team in the country.”
The Dukes have run the table so far this season. The only blemish to their 4-0-0, 12-0-1 record is a 1-1 tie with St. Francis College back in September. If both teams go unbeaten the rest of the way, the Rams would have to play road games in the CAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
But Rams coach Tim O’Sullivan said, “You can only worry about things that you can control.”
While the Dukes are unbeaten, they’ve picked up seven wins in by playing a relatively weak nonconference schedule.
“That’s a good thing and a bad thing,” O’Sullivan said.” The good thing is like in our game three of our players were out and we lost 3-1. With a good schedule, it’s a battle all the time. The bad thing is that you’re not battle tested.”
Montero said that regardless of the Dukes schedule in the final weeks of the season, his team has no plans of making it easy for JMU to win the regular season.
“We’ve got to do everything in our capabilities,” he said, “enough to have maybe the second round over here and host the second round of the NCAAs and then run from there.”