Men’s soccer opens conference play with back-to-back wins

Redshirt sophomore Isaac Owusu has been a staple in the Rams’ defensive unit.

Kris Mason
Contributing Writer

The men’s soccer team put together back-to-back victories after a three-game losing streak stretched into the opening days of October.

Coming off of a devastating double overtime defeat at the hands of the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the Rams topped No. 22 Saint Louis on Oct. 6 and the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 11.

VCU had a thrilling comeback against the Billikens, in which they scored two goals in the final 17 minutes. The win was sealed when junior forward Jose Manel netted the go-ahead score in the 84th minute, improving the Rams record to 4-4-1 on the year and 3-1-1 against ranked opponents.

For much of the game, however, it appeared as though the Rams’ losing skid would continue. Saint Louis jumped out to a 1-0 lead when David Graydon scored in the 37th minute. VCU remained scoreless until senior defender Garrett Harvey tied the game at one apiece in the 73rd minute with a header off of a Nate Schiffman cross.

The Rams’ defense was stingy in the second half, allowing only two shots on goal in the final 45 minutes. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Wells was solid, making three saves on the day.

This past Friday, VCU opened Atlantic 10 play with a home game against U.Mass. The Minutemen came to Richmond with a 1-8-1 record and struggled to keep up with the Rams. Junior Kharlton Belmar scored his fourth goal of the season just nine minutes into the contest, and sophomore Dennis Castillo notched his third score of the year just more than 10 minutes later.

The Rams added two more goals in the second half, courtesy of Rahim Costa-Dorsey and Ritchie Dorsey. VCU edged UMass by a final score of 4-0, opening conference play on a positive note and stringing together consecutive victories for the first time since mid-September.

The Rams continued conference play on Sunday against the University of Rhode Island (2-6) at home, but the game finished too late for production.

Jose Manel was named the Atlantic 10 men’s soccer player of the week Oct. 7 after his game winning goal against Saint Louis. Castillo and sophomore midfielder Devon Fisher won the same award earlier this season.

Last season, the team ended an eight-year NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament drought. The quest to return to the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year will be difficult, but the Rams have a favorable schedule over the next month of play. In all, four of the Rams’ next six games are at home. VCU hosts a tough Indiana squad at home this Friday, Oct. 18 before traveling to George Mason on Sunday, Oct. 20.

Coach Giffard’s team will round out the month of October with home games against La Salle on Oct. 25 and Old Dominion on Oct. 30. A road match against St. Joseph’s on Oct. 27 slots in between.

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