As the VCU men’s soccer team struggles to find the back of the net, redshirt-junior goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus is singlehandedly keeping the Rams in most games by his protection of it. The redshirt junior has registered three straight shutouts, tallying six on the season.
VCU defeated Duquesne University 1-0 on Friday, Oct. 24, improving their unbeaten streak to four straight in conference play. Senior Jose Manel scored his fourth goal of the season five minutes and 49 seconds into the match and Cyprus registered six saves on the day to keep his shutout streak intact.
Prior to the team’s fifth victory of the season, the Rams tied La Salle University 0-0 in the Oct. 19 contest at Sports Backers Stadium. That was the team’s third straight double overtime match that ended in a tie. Prior to the La Salle match, the Rams also tied Fordham University 0-0 at home on Oct. 17 and the University of Massachusetts 1-1. As of Oct. 25, the Rams hold a 5-7-4 record overall.
Despite the impressive streak of shutouts, Cyprus deflects most of the credit.
“Shutouts are really a credit to the team in front of you,” Cyprus said. “When the defense limits the chances on goal, that makes my job just so much easier. Shutouts are credited to the goalkeeper but it’s really the team’s performance that allows that to happen.”
As of Oct. 23, VCU was ranked eigthth in the conference in saves with 3.29 a game, meaning the defense doesn’t allow many shots on goal for the goalie to have to save.
Despite the lack of offense, Cyprus hasn’t been discouraged.
“I trust my guys to do their job,” Cyprus said. “Just because we haven’t put a couple in the net, it’s not like we haven’t had the chances. It’s kinda unlucky that the ball’s been bouncing the other way and not towards the goal.”
As of Oct. 25, VCU is third in the A-10 with nine points and a 2-0-3 conference record. Rhode Island University is in first place with a 5-0 conference record and 15 points. Saint Louis University is second with 10 points. Four other teams round out the top five: two tied for fourth and two tied for fifth with seven points apiece.
The Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a quantity used to rank teams based on a team’s wins, losses and strength of schedule, is a key component the selection committee looks at when choosing teams. Prior to the win against Duquesne, VCU had an RPI of 116. Despite playing a difficult schedule and facing four top-10 ranked teams, the Rams only came away with one win, which is a major reason why their RPI isn’t higher.
The Rams most likely need to win the A-10 tournament to make the NCAA tournament. One advantage helping VCU is that the A-10 tournament will be held in Richmond.
“It’s huge not having to travel and having the home crowd there every time. We’re gonna have the VCU Peppas there every game,” Cyprus said. “It’s a massive advantage on a field that we’re used to in our own environment. It helps guys get hyped for the game.”
Played at Sports Backer Stadium from Nov. 13-16, the 2014 A-10 Men’s Soccer Championship will feature the top-eight teams in the regular season standings from the 14-team league.
Last season, only VCU and George Mason University from the A-10 made the 48-team NCAA tournament. GMU won the 2013 tournament, taking the league’s automatic bid. VCU lost to George Mason in the semifinals, but they were able to receive an at-large bid based on their impressive wins against teams ranked in the top 25.
The bid led to the Rams hosting the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament, however the Rams would lose the contest 3-0.
VCU would rather not have to rely on the NCAA Selection Committee’s decision to determine whether or not they compete in postseason play this season, as the annual goal is to win the A-10.
The final two games for the Rams are at George Washington University Nov. 2 followed by the final home match on Nov. 7 against 17th-ranked Billikens of Saint Louis University.
Cyprus said he believes the Rams will be ready.
“We are better than we were in August and it’s the performance improvements that are going to carry us forward.