Men’s soccer goes cold in desert, winless in New Mexico Invitational

Senior Kharlton Belmar hits a header in a game played against East Tennessee State University last year. Belmar has scored two goals this season. CT file photo.

Kris Mason
Staff Writer

VCU men’s soccer team traveled to the desert to compete in the New Mexico Invitational on Sept. 19-21 and bit the dust, going winless against California State University Bakersfield as well as No. 4 University of New Mexico.

Played in Albuquerque, New Mexico, head coach Dave Giffard’s team faced the daunting task of traveling cross-country to compete. The team’s 0-1-1 record over the course of the tournament reflected the difficulty of the task.On Sunday, Sept. 21, VCU fell to fourth-ranked UNM 2-0, in the second match of the tournament. The defeat came on the heels of a double overtime tie against CSUB, 1-1, on Friday, Sept. 19. The fourth loss of the season dropped the Rams below .500.

In VCU’s closing matchup of the tournament, New Mexico scored goals in the 17th and 74th minutes for a 2-0 win. New Mexico defender/midfielder Oniel Fisher hit a ball to midfielder/forward Niko Hansen for the first goal. Almost 60 in-game minutes later, midfielder Chris Wehan netted the game-clinching score.

Senior midfielder Mario Herrera-Meraz had the only shot on goal for the Rams.

Redshirt senior midfielder Ritchie Duffie was still able to take away positives from the match.

“New Mexico is a great team. Although we fought very hard, and did not get the win, it showed us that we are very competitive at this level,” Duffie said. “I know my team is determined to work harder, hopefully the next time we meet the outcome will be different.”

Days prior, in the opening game of the NM invitational, VCU jumped out to an early lead when sophomore midfielder Dakota Barnathan scored a goal in the fifth minute. Herrera-Meraz tallied the assist. The Rams clung on to their 1-0 advantage until CSUB knotted the score at one in the 81st minute. No team scored in the final nine minutes of regulation, and the match headed to overtime.

Both the Rams and the Road Runners were unable to the find the back of the net in overtime, and the match ended in a tie. Junior goalkeeper Garrett Cyrus gave up a game-tying goal but also recorded seven saves in the game that does not count as a loss for the Rams.

Despite not recording a win in the tournament, two Rams were named to the New Mexico Invitational All-Tournament Team: sophomore defender Juan Fajardo Ortiz and Duffie. Both were awarded the distinction for their outstanding performances in the two matches.

“I was extremely honored and humbled by the selection,” Duffie said. “It gave me a good opportunity to represent VCU in a positive manner.”

On Friday, Sept. 27, Coach Giffard’s team returned home to host Old Dominion University. Duffie scored his first goal of the season in the 80th minute but it would not be enough as the Rams fell to ODU 2-1.

Up next for the Rams is a visit to the defending national champions and third-ranked Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, on Tuesday, Sept. 30. This will be the fourth top-10 opponent the Rams have faced in the last six games. Previously the Rams played No. 5 University of North Carolina to a 1-0 loss, defeated No. 6 Georgetown University 2-1, lost to No. 15 University of Virginia on Sept. 15 1-0 in addition to the 2-0 loss to No. 4 UNM.

Duffie feels that playing a difficult schedule will be beneficial in the long run for his team.

“Playing a tough schedule early in the year enables us to become better as a team overall and prepares us for conference play,” he said. “It also makes us a competitive threat in postseason play.”


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