The University of Rhode Island women’s soccer team clinched an Atlantic 10 Tournament berth after its 3-1 road victory over Richmond on Sunday.
The Rams moved to 12-4-2 overall after splitting a road weekend series, losing 2-1 to Davidson University on Friday and rebounding against Richmond two days later.
“To get a win on the road is one thing, but to get a win on the road against a really good team is huge,” Rhode Island head coach Michael Needham said. “It was an awesome performance by our family today, everyone contributed, and this is a special day for our program.”
The Rams’ quick turnaround between the loss to Davidson and the game against Richmond catapulted them into their first tournament under Needham. He said the team needs to come together and keep fighting to get to where they want to be before the start of the A-10 Tournament.
Junior Ellie Bailes gave Rhode Island its first score of the day when she was assisted by captain Dariann Sellitti on a header goal to get the offense rolling early in the first half against the Spiders.
Bailes tore her ACL early in the 2013 season and Needham said her journey back to the team has been very challenging. She scored her first goals against Davidson and Richmond, which broke a drought dating back to the 2012 season. Bailes has scored 12 career points on six goals in her three-year career at Rhode Island.
“Coming back off an injury, Ellie was a true professional who worked very hard and did everything she needed to get healthy enough to play,” Needham said. “She’s on fire and she’s enjoying herself and her return was huge for the team.”
Sophomore Nicole Brennan added her sixth goal of the season to seize control of the game early in the second half for the Rams. Brennan, who leads the team with 18 points, was named to the Atlantic 10 all-conference second team this week.
Senior Samantha Rice was assisted by fellow senior Chelsea Gates to score her first-career goal less than 20 minutes later to go up 3-0. By the time Richmond got on the board, it was too late, as Rhode Island would clinch a 3-1 victory soon after.
URI shot 15 total times against Richmond, including nine shots-on-goal, while the Spiders shot 13 times with only four shots-on-goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Katie Nickles had three saves on in the game.
“The game we played on Sunday was the best I’ve ever seen a team play,” Needham said. “It was a dominant performance and it was amazing how we played. We embodied everything it means to wear our colors.”
Rhode Island scored first against Davidson in Friday’s contest. Bailes put a shot in the net, courtesy of an assist from junior Sarah Warjas just 12 minutes into the game. A two-hour delay followed as heavy rain and lightning proved too dangerous to play in.
In the 39th minute, Rhode Island was penalized for a foul in the box after the rain delay ended. Nickles initially stopped the penalty kick, but Davidson’s Madison See hit a shot off of the rebound to tie the score. Nickles fell to 7-1-2 on the season after allowing two goals.
The Wildcats scored the eventual game-winning goal with 41 seconds remaining in the first half, when Stephanie Piperno put a shot into the upper left corner of the net.
The Rams offense totaled 13 shots including six on-goal, while the defense allowed nine total shots and five shots-on-goal. Nickles had three saves during the game while Davidson goalkeeper Rachel Locke had five.
The Rams travel to Dayton, Ohio, to play no. 4 seed George Washington in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament on Thursday. The Colonials’ 4-3-1 conference record is identical to Rhode Island’s, and they are 11-5-1 overall this season.