Men’s soccer in second place heading into A-10 tourney

Alonzo Small
Contributing Writer

A 2-1 victory at St. Bonaventure University on Friday, Nov. 8 gave the VCU men’s soccer team its second consecutive victory and propelled head coach Dave Giffard’s team into sole possession of second place in the Atlantic 10 less than one week away from the conference tournament.

Junior forward Kharlton Belmar notched a pair of goals in the 65th and 70th minutes to give the Rams a second-half lead they wouldn’t concede. SBU’s Nicholas Perillo managed to score in the 88th minute, but VCU survived behind a solid defensive stance and three saves from senior goalkeeper Andrew Wells.

The victory was the Rams’ fifth conference win of the season and their 10th overall.

VCU’s regular season concluded this past Sunday with a road match at Duquesne University, but a result was not final as of press time. Pending the results of that contest, Giffard’s club (10-5-2, 5-1-1) is likely to receive a No. 2 seed in the A-10 tournament, which begins Nov. 14 in Dayton, Ohio.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, Sports Backers Stadium hosted men’s soccer team Senior Day, where seniors Nate Shiffman, Romena Bowie, Garrett Harvey and goalkeeper Andrew Wells were all honored in the final home game of their collegiate careers against Fordham University.

Harvey got VCU on the board first after Belmar was denied a score by Fordham goalkeeper Alex Naples. The rebound bounced to the senior defender and Harvey netted the first score of the game less than seven minutes into the match.

The second half belonged to juniors Herrera Meraz and Belmar. Each scored a goal to secure the ninth victory of the season for coach Giffard’s team. Meraz found the net for the first time in his collegiate career in the 51st minute and Belmar gave VCU a three-score advantage just more than 20 minutes later.

Wells concluded his collegiate career at Sports Backers Stadium by not allowing a goal in his final three home games and the Rams finished the season with a 6-2-1 record at the stadium.

After the game, Giffard said the week of rest between games helped his team prepare and execute against Fordham.

“The week (off) was incredibly beneficial for us as a group, probably the last good week of training we’ll get for the rest of the season,” he said.

Prior to the 3-0 victory against Fordham, Giffard’s team suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Saint Joseph’s University on Oct. 27. The match was tight throughout until SJU’s Ryan McFadden found the right side of the net in the 85th minute off an assist from sophomore Tim Lazorko at Sweeney Field in Philadelphia, Penn.

The Rams were held scoreless for the second time in three matches, and VCU’s six-game undefeated streak came to an end. Before the loss at Saint Joseph’s, coach Giffard’s team was ranked No. 24 in the nation.

Now, VCU looks to make a repeat appearance in the A-10 Championship, one year after the Rams lost to the second-seeded Billikens in the conference final. Last season VCU entered postseason play as a No. 4 seed before a pair of 1-0 shutouts against fifth-seeded Temple University and top-seeded University of North Carolina at Charlotte propelled Giffard’s club into the championship match.

This time around, Saint Louis (11-4-2, 5-0-2) will likely enter the tournament as the conference’s top-seeded team. An upset at the hands of the University of Massachusetts in Saint Louis’ final regular season contest could shake up the seeding; however, the standings are shaping up for a potential rematch against the A-10’s top two teams in the championship. The Rams defeated the Billikens 2-1 in the regular season’s only matchup on Oct. 6.

The No. 2 seed will play the No. 7 seed at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14 at Baujan Field in Dayton, Ohio. The No. 1 seed will take on the No. 8 seed at 8 p.m. the same day.

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