The University of Rhode Island men’s soccer team (8-11-1) started Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament play with a 3-1 upset against No. 3 seed La Salle College before losing 4-0 to eventual champion No. 2 seed Fordham University.
Last Thursday night URI men’s soccer began tournament play at Davidson College’s Alumni Field when they faced No. 3 La Salle Explorers. Junior forward Ryan Bailey entered the game in the 34th minute and immediately made an impact on the scoreless game. In the 37th minute, freshman midfielder Stavros Zarokostas connected a pass to midfielder Dominik Richter who found Bailey making a run into the La Salle box with a cross for the one-timed finish. Just 32 seconds following the first goal, the Rams doubled their lead when Bailey found Zarokostas on a perfectly executed give-and-go. Zarokostas slotted a clinical finish into the bottom right corner of La Salle’s net, bringing the lead to 2-0 at halftime.
The second half was a test for URI to keep their composure. In the 78th minute, La Salle had a golden opportunity to score off of a free kick that was headed on goal by Pat McCarthy, but it was saved miraculously by Ram’s junior goalkeeper Nils Leifhelm. The save turned out to be significant for URI as La Salle cut the lead in half in the 80th minute. Matt Robinson flicked the ball behind Leifhelm off of another free kick just over midfield to make the score 2-1.
Minutes later, Bailey came up clutch again for the Rams as he found the ball in transition, and deked out the La Salle defender before ripping a shot in the bottom right corner of the net. Bailey put the game away with the 3-1 lead, and was involved on each of the three URI scores to help his team advance into the semifinals. Due to his efforts, which amounted to five points, one shy of his season total, Bailey was recognized following the tournament’s conclusion. Head coach Gareth Elliott was proud of his junior forward’s performance, but expected nothing less.
“Bailey was the only one of our players out of the two games we played to make the All Championship Team (awards best tournament players),” Elliott said. “He came off of the bench and did a great job for us, and this was the level of play we expect from Ryan all the time.”
The semifinal against No.2 seeded Fordham University was a much different story for Rhode Island. Fordham got out to an early lead in the 16th minute when Christopher Bazzini attempted a long cross into the Rhode Island box that deflected off of redshirt junior Dante Lamb. Fordham’s Ole Sandnes then one-timed a shot into the bottom corner of the net to go up 1-0.
Rhode Island had three opportunities to score in the first half, but Fordham goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu was able to save all three to keep the 1-0 lead at the half. The second half turned out to be all Fordham especially when Lamb was issued a straight red card in the 66th minute, leaving URI a man down for the remainder of the match. Fordham would score their final three goals within three minutes of each other after Lamb’s forced departure.
Just before the 85th minute, Rhode Island sophomore Emil Jensen Sunde was also given a red card on a foul in the box resulting in a Fordham penalty kick that was converted by Loebe for his second goal of the evening. The score would end at 4-0, and Fordham would end up defeating No.5 Virginia Commonwealth University in penalty kicks to win the A-10 Championship. Elliott was disappointed by the way his team’s season ended, but remains optimistic of what is to come next season.
“I’m disappointed as we have high expectations for this program, with the record we have, we don’t find it a success just making it to the postseason,” Elliott said. “The only way we feel that we have achieved success is by winning the postseason tournament. With a quality incoming class I think we will be in a good spot to make a run.”