VCU is the No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament and will host either Butler or Lipscomb despite a loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament final Sunday.
The Rams were just barely among 16 teams selected to receive first-round byes in the tournament. It will be their first time playing in it since 2013.
“It’s nice to be back in the tournament after being out the last three years,” said Head Coach Dave Giffard in a news release. “We were a game away each of the last two years, and this year we were rewarded for our body of work and what we have done so far this season.”
The soccer team came up empty in their third consecutive visit to the A-10 final in as many years this week. The final score was 3-1 as University of Massachusetts clinched the championship ring and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
VCU may have outshot the Minutemen 20-10 over the course of 90 minutes, but UMass redshirt goalkeeper Bardia Asefnia was a standout on the night — making a few critical saves to help keep his team in the game.
The Rams started out with three corner kicks in the first three minutes of the match in what was an otherwise uneventful half.
VCU had more possession and chances in the first half, but the best opportunity of the half went to UMass freshman forward Davis Smith, who put the shot high above the crossbar.
The game had little action until the 55th minute, when UMass senior midfielder Matthew Mooney finished off a pass from junior defender Conrad Gorich after senior defender Steven Dal Molin couldn’t get a clearance out of the defence. Gorich headed the ball across the six yard box to Mooney who tucked the ball away calmly.
VCU’s redshirt junior midfielder Peter Pearson had a couple looks but couldn’t put his chances away to tie it up for the Rams.
The Rams continued to get chances, and in the 70th minute they finally got their break. Redshirt senior Francesco Amorosino tucked home a pass low and right from sophomore midfielder Fortia Munts.
VCU continued to knock at the door thereafter, but couldn’t put away a bevy of opportunites.
The Minutemen took the lead back in the 77th minute, however, when Smith tucked the ball home as the Rams looked visibly frustrated with their defense.
UMass didn’t stop there. Senior forward Alex DeSantis put away the Minutemen’s third goal of the night to effectively dash the Rams’ hopes of winning the title.
The Rams scored two phenomenal goals in a 2-0 win against the University of Rhode Island a couple days earlier in the tournament semi-final.
Senior midfielder Rafael Andrade Santos notched his 12th goal of the season in emphatic fashion — a backheel finish from outside the penalty box which was grand enough to earn a spot on ESPN’s Sportscenter Top 10 countdown.
VCU’s second goal, another backheel from the touchline by sophomore forward Siad Haji was arguably a Top-10 contender in its own right. VCU outshot Rhode Island 17-14 overall, while Rhode Island had more shots on goal 6-4.
The Rams finish the season with a 12-6 record. Despite not winning the regular season title or conference tournament, the Rams found themselves in the NCAA tournament. Famous wins against the 9th ranked University of Maryland in October and 15th ranked University of North Carolina at Wilmington in September were likely key factors in the selection committees minds.
Fadel Allassan , Managing Editor at Large