After an impressive four-game stretch against quality opponents, the VCU men’s soccer team dropped back-to-back games last weekend against Coastal Carolina and Wake Forest to fall to 3-3-1 on the season.
With a win against Niagara on Sept. 15, the Rams climbed to No. 8 in the national rankings. Junior Kharlton Belmar scored the only tally of the game against the Purple Hawks in Akron, Ohio in the 50th minute.
The team’s top-10 ranking disappeared when its 3-game win streak was snapped by the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in a Saturday evening showdown at Sports Backers Stadium on Sept. 21.
The Rams conceded an early goal to Coastal Carolina’s shifty forward Ricky Garbanzo. VCU fought hard, outshooting the Chanticleers 13 to seven, but eventually fell by a score of 1-0. The loss dropped the Rams to No. 17 in the rankings.
Following the disappointing home loss to Coastal Carolina, VCU traveled south to Winston-Salem, N.C. on a mission to out-duel the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The matchup of top-25 teams held promise, and the hard-fought contest didn’t fail to deliver.
VCU struck first with an unassisted goal in the 18th minute by freshman midfielder Dakota Barnathan. The goal was Barnathan’s first of the season.
Wake Forest responded in the 36th minute with a game-tying goal from defender Tolani Ibikunie, and took the lead just minutes into the second half on a second-chance opportunity from defender Sam Fink in the 56th minute.
The Rams eventually fell by a final score of 2-1, handing VCU consecutive losses for the first time this season.
Head coach Dave Giffard continues to search for stability along the back line. He has interchanged defenders Isaac Owusu, Assane Keita, Juan Monge Solano, Garrett Harvey and Dennis Castillo game-to-game. Most recently, Owusu, Solano and Keita and Castillo started against Coastal Carolina.
The Rams are also lacking production from their midfield. Preseason third team All-American Romena Bowie has yet to score a goal on the season and has started just two of seven games. VCU is 2-0 when Bowie starts.
VCU may be knocked out of the national polls this week after consecutive losses. However, they remain in the middle of the A-10 standings, with a 3-3-1 overall record and the nation’s most difficult schedule. The Dayton Flyers remain No. 1 in the conference at 7-0, while 1-4 Rhode Island is last.
The team will enjoy a week-long break before traveling to Charlottesville, Va. to take on the Virginia Cavaliers on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Following that, the Rams will head home to host the Saint Louis Billikens on Sunday, Oct. 6.