Riding a six-game unbeaten streak that lasted just under a month, the VCU men’s soccer team competed against No. 12-ranked Saint Louis University on Friday, Nov. 7 in their Atlantic 10 regular season finale.
On a increasingly chilly night, the Rams went cold, coming up short to the A-10 second seeded SLU Billikens, 1-0.
The game-winning goal came in the 74th minute when SLU’s Robert Kristo’s free kick was punched in. Still, VCU had its opportunities to net the equalizer. Senior forward Jose Manel connected on a header from a corner that ultimately hit the crossbar and went out. Time in regulation would expire and the Rams would suffer their first loss since Oct. 8.
On a night that welcomed family and friends in support of players as part of the third annual VCU Soccer Family Weekend, the loss came on senior night, as seven seniors partook in their last regular season game at Sports Backers Stadium.
Ray De Leon, Juan Monge Solano, Assane Keita, Mario Herrera Meraz, Kharlton Belmar, Ritchie Duffie and Jose Manel were all acknowledged for their contibutions to the men’s soccer team on their senior night.
An experienced bunch, all seniors played a role in the Rams finishing third in the conference. In a schedule that was one of the toughest in the country, the Rams were able to compile a 7-8-4 record with a 4-1-3-conference record. Although the Rams end the season one game under .500, the Rams were able to recover from a rocky start that almost threatened their season early on.
Against SLU, Belmar and Herrera Meraz were covered all night and had trouble controlling the ball to become a threat to a stifling Billikens defense. Belmar and Manel both converted four goals on the season, while Herrera Meraz recorded two. A Mexico City native, Herrera Meraz led the team with a total of 10 points recorded this season. Belmar recorded eight points and Manuel nine, as the three seniors were the main point scorers for the Rams this season.
“I thought we were very good in many areas of the game, but didn’t score on the chances we created,” said head coach Dave Giffard after the loss.
Now, Giffard feels the team must focus on the A-10 conference championship tournament.
The Rams return to play Nov. 13, where the A-10 Tournament will be played at Sports Backers Stadium, providing the Rams with the ultimate home-field advantage. The bracket has not been established yet, but VCU will face-off at 8 p.m. that night in the final of four opening round matches.