The University of Rhode Island men’s soccer team closed out the regular season with a 1-0 win at Duquesne on Sunday, giving the team some momentum heading into Atlantic 10 Tournament play.
The Rams made their one shot-on-goal of the first half count as junior Ryan Oakley took a pass from freshman Carlo Davids and sent a laser from 25 yards out into the top right corner of the net.
“All season we have been able to counterattack,” Oakley said. “We were able to get a quick turnaround and capitalize on it.”
The lone score was all freshman goalkeeper Nils Leifhelm would need for his eighth shutout of the season. Leifhelm earned his fourth Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week Award and earned a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week for his performance. He was also named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year yesterday.
The first half of the match was a struggle for the Rams as they failed to generate much offense, and possessions were mostly on their end of the field. The Dukes had the advantage and it allowed them to outshoot the Rams 8-7, registering three shots-on-goal against the Rams’ one. Despite outshooting the Rams, the Dukes recorded three corner kicks to the Rams four. Â Duquesne was also called for eight fouls in the first half trying to outmuscle the Rams and capitalize on the time in their zone.
The Rams only mustered three shots the entire second half with only two coming on-goal. Both were saved by Duquesne goalkeeper Sam Frymier. Â The Dukes, however, were able to generate 15 shots with nine coming in on-goal. The Dukes also attempted five corner kicks after the intermission.
The Rams were up to the challenge with Leifhelm stonewalling all nine shots-on-goal. Despite another seven fouls and one yellow card on the Dukes in the second half, the Rams were able to stay ahead for the rest of the game.
“Duquesne lives on set pieces” Rhode Island head coach Gareth Elliott, who was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, yesterday, said. “We were really able to compete in the air and clear danger. All in all, it was a good effort. Â We really defended as a team.”
Rhode Island earned the no. 1 seed in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament with its victory and Saint Louis’ defeat of Virginia Commonwealth University this weekend. URI’s place in the tournament marks a turnaround from last season when the squad did not win a single conference match, to finishing with just one loss this year. Â The Rams’ final record for the regular season sits at 11-4-3 with a 7-1 record in Atlantic 10 play.
“For us to be successful heading into the tournament, we need to stay consistent as a team,” senior captain Mike Casey said. “I think things are looking good for us.”
The Rams start conference tournament play with a match Thursday afternoon against the no. 8-seeded Dayton Flyers in Richmond, Virginia.