The University of Rhode Island men’s soccer team opened Atlantic 10 Conference play on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Fordham at Jack Coffey Field in the Bronx, New York.
The Rams extended their unbeaten streak to six games with a 4-0-2 posting over that stretch.
“It was very important to get the win on the road,” Rhode Island head coach Gareth Elliott said. “We’re not ecstatic about our 5-3-3 record by any stretch, but we have to build on last year and continue to work hard.”
Rhode Island scored in the 17th minute of the game as senior Matt Sykes put a shot in the upper left corner from 16 yards out for his fifth goal of the season and the eventual game-winner. The Rams broke a 10-game losing streak against Atlantic 10 opponents with the victory.
Sykes and sophomore Wesley Matthews led the Rhode Island defense and freshman goalkeeper Nils Leifhelm registered his fifth shutout this year. Fordham senior Andres Penfold shot twice on a corner kick that Leifhelm blocked in the seventh minute. Leifhelm stiffened again, sending away another attempt from Fordham sophomore Andrew Hickey a few minutes later.
Leifhelm has been a defensive force for the Rams over the last several games, allowing just two goals in his previous 570 minutes played. He is ranked fifth in the nation with 46 saves, which is the best in the Atlantic 10. The goalkeeper earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors for the second consecutive week after totaling three saves on Saturday.
“Nils is very important to the team,” Elliott said. “He just needs to be consistent. He’s a very mature young man and he works very hard for us.”
Rhode Island’s offense did not get much going after their first goal, as Fordham senior goalkeeper Sean Brailey totaled eight saves during the game. Rhode Island had a chance to ad to their lead with a penalty shot, but Brailey blocked Sykes’ kick.
“George Washington is a tough opponent this year and we have to be up for that challenge,” Elliott said. “We know it’s going to be a battle and we have to be up to the challenge that every conference game brings. We have to be firing on all cylinders offensively and defensively to get the job done.”
The Rams return to Kingston this Saturday afternoon to open up a four-game homestand when they take on George Washington University at the URI Soccer Complex.