Men’s soccer rebounds after close losses to ranked teams

Sterling Giles
Contributing Writer

Head coach Dave Giffard speaking to the team after defeating University of George Mason 3-0, in a home game at Sports Backers Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 4. Photo by Veronica Sung

VCU men’s soccer team ended a five-game winless streak in dominating fashion, defeating unbeaten No. 20 University of George Mason 3-0 on Saturday, Oct. 4.

Behind two goals by senior forward Kharlton Belar and another by sophomore Dakota Barnathan, the team won their Atlantic 10 conference opener, and more importantly defeated a ranked team after stumbling in previous tries. The Rams have suffered close losses to national powerhouses this season, two of which were to top-five programs. In contests against top-ranked teams, the Rams have been on the verge, suffering nothing greater than a one-goal deficit.

Against No. 1 ranked University of Notre Dame, there was no moral victory for the VCU men’s soccer team after going toe-to-toe with the nation’s best, ultimately coming up short 1-0 on Tuesday, Sept. 30.

For 106 minutes, Notre Dame and VCU remained even, but a late goal by senior midfielder Nick Besler in double overtime propelled the defending champs to victory and left VCU looking for answers after losing three straight.

Senior goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus’ impressive abilities inside the net have kept the Rams in games. Against the Fighting Irish, he had seven saves on the night, one coming from a penalty kick as well. Still, Notre Dame had eight shots on goal and clinched the game with a header in the 107th minute for their fifth win of the season.

Midway through the year, the schedule has proven to be one of VCU’s toughest in recent memory. The team has already played four of the top six teams in the nation and six teams that ranked in the top-10 altogether. The team has played the second-toughest out-of-conference schedule in the nation.

Head coach Dave Giffard assured the team’s 4-6-1 record is not indicative of the team’s effort.

“I put the guys in an incredibly challenging situation in our out-of-conference schedule by playing the most challenging schedule that I possibly could,” Giffard said. “Although it has been a bitter pill to swallow thus far in terms of results, I’ve been incredibly pleased with our team growth and performances as the non-conference schedule has gone on.”

Next, Giffard’s team hit the road for their last non-conference matchup of the regular season against University of Maryland on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

“I have a ton of confidence in this group, and know that as the season continues on, we will keep getting better and better in our performances,” Giffard said. “My experience has been that results will follow close behind.”

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