The No. 8 seeded VCU men’s soccer team was defeated by the University of Dayton in the Atlantic 10 championship final on Nov. 15 in Fairfax, Virginia, after pulling off an improbable run which saw them defeat No. 1 seeded George Washington University and No. 5 Fordham University.
After going into the halftime break down by a goal, VCU conceded three second-half goals and scored a consolation goal through freshman midfielder Dakota Barnathan. The goal wasn’t enough to stop the the A-10 championship from slipping from the Rams fingertips.
A day earlier, two Rams butted heads in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament when VCU upset the Fordham University Rams on Saturday in Fairfax, Virginia. The win gave VCU the chance to play in the A-10 Championship game for the first time since 2012.
“It was a gritty, hard-fought win against a good and extremely well-coached Fordham team. I was disappointed in our ability at the end of the game to kill it out against a team that was throwing everything forward,” said VCU head coach Dave Giffard. “But to be fair to the players, we have a ton of new guys in the lineup and we haven’t been in that situation yet this year.”
The Rams defeated last year’s A-10 Champions with a goal from sophomore midfielder Rafael Andre Santos late in the first half. Santos, a Brazil native, fired in his goal from 20 yards out and VCU held onto the lead to continue its run in the conference tournament.
The run, which began on Nov. 12, saw the Rams defeat the George Washington with a goal from Santos, redshirt sophomore midfielder Luc Fatton and two goals from junior forward Jorge Herranz.
Against Fordham, the Rams looked to get an early lead when sophomore forward Ivan Sakou’s shot in the 10th minute was tipped over the goal by Fordham goalkeeper, Rashid Nuhu.
Decent chances were far and few in the first half after Sakou’s opportunity, until the 37th minute, when Fordham’s Janos Loebe sailed a shot high over the net of VCU sophomore goalkeeper Pierre Gardan, who had four saves in the match, keeping a clean sheet for the Rams. Minutes later, redshirt freshman midfielder Eli Lockaby had a shot saved for VCU.
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Santos powered his shot to the back of Nuhu’s net to take the Rams to the break with a 1-0 advantage.
The Rams held their breath when, seven minutes after the halftime break, sophomore defender R.J. Roberts had to clear the ball from the goal line to preserve VCU’s lead. Nine minutes later, Gardan saved a shot from Fordham’s Eric Ohlendorf. With 11 minutes remaining for the Fordham Rams to salvage the game, a corner kick against VCU created chaos in the penalty box and again VCU held its breath until the ball was cleared out of danger to preserve a clean sheet, the VCU Rams’ second of the tournament.
VCU resisted pressure from its New York based counterparts to secure a berth to the championship game, in which they lost to Dayton on Sunday. Giffard hopes the experience of struggling to grind out a tough win would prove a learning curve for the Rams game against Dayton. However, the opportunity to defend a lead never came for VCU.