Rams top defending national champions

From left to right: Jose Manel, Dennis Castillo and Juan Monge Solano celebrate Castillo’s go-ahead goal in the 68th minute of Friday’s victory against the University of Indiana at Sports Backers Stadium. Photo by Chris Conway.

Alonzo Small
Contributing Writer

The VCU men’s soccer team topped defending national champion University of Indiana 1-0 on Oct. 18, stretching its win streak to four games and pushing its record to 7-4-1 on the season.

A four-game home stand at Sports Backers Stadium proved vital for head coach Dave Giffard’s team, as the Rams countered their three-game losing streak with four consecutive victories, three of which were against conference opponents. VCU outscored opponents 10-2 during the run.

Indiana outshot the Rams 21-8 (10-2 in shots on goal), but a Jacob Bushue handball inside the box in the 68th minute set up a Dennis Castillo penalty quick, which gave VCU a 1-0 lead with just more than 20 minutes to play.

From there, senior goalkeeper Andrew Wells and the Rams’ defense held tight, blocking all 10 shots fired on frame over the course of the match.

The 1-0 win was VCU’s second shutout in its last three games, and Giffard was proud of his defense.

“We’ll take it,” he said. “Andrew came up with a couple good saves and one of the areas that we’ve grown quite a bit is defensive restarts. We had some guys do some great things on defense.”

On Oct. 13, the Rams got off to a quick start against Rhode Island  when junior Ritchie Duffie’s second career goal gave the team an early advantage in the 12th minute of play. After the initial score, the two teams remained deadlocked until senior Garrett Harvey extended the Rams’ lead with a header inside the near post in the 82nd minute.

Less than seven minutes later, Rhode Island made things interesting when Matt Skyes scored a goal off a feed from teammate Joey Haught in the 89th minute. However, on the ensuing kickoff, VCU freshman Dakota Barnathan found junior Jose Manel, who lofted a shot into the net from just inside midfield to secure a Rams victory. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Wells made four saves in goal for the Rams.

Coach Giffard’s team traveled to Fairfax, Va. to take on the George Mason Patriots this past Sunday, but a result was not final as of press time.

VCU continues conference play this week against La Salle University on Oct. 25. If both teams take care of business, Friday night’s matchup could potentially be one for first place in the A-10 standings.

As of Oct. 18, La Salle (3-0) held a one-game lead over VCU (2-0) in the conference standings, having played one more game than the Rams to that point.

La Salle brings a team led by Jason Plumhoff, who was recently named A-10 Soccer Player of the Week for games played Oct. 7-13. The senior midfielder tallied seven points in La Salle’s weekend conference sweep over Duquesne and St. Bonaventure.

After Friday’s contest with the Explorers, the Rams will play at St. Joseph’s on Oct. 27 before hosting Old Dominion University on Oct. 30.

In late August, the Rams were predicted to finish in second place in the A-10 behind defending conference champion Saint Louis. Coach Giffard’s club defeated the Billikens by a score of 2-1 on Oct. 6.

A-10 tournament play begins Nov. 14 in Dayton, Ohio.

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