In 2006 the University of Rhode Island men’s soccer team had a very successful season, boasting 12 wins and bringing home the Atlantic 10 championship to Kingston for the fourth time within 10 years. So far this season, the men have acquired eight wins, and their last recorded loss was on Sept. 2, when they suffered a 2-1 defeat in double overtime to No. 24 Providence College.
Rhode Island currently sits in second in the Atlantic 10 conference. Looking forward, Virginia Commonwealth University and Fordham University stand in the way as threatening opponents. Last year, Fordham University bested the Rams, winning 4-0. However, this year, Fordham lost key players in their line-up, including two seniors, giving URI a stronger chance at achieving victory this upcoming Saturday.
Head coach Gareth Elliott is confident in his team’s ability to continue to play well, which could lead to a successful postseason. “If we play our best stuff, I’m not concerned about any teams,” Elliott said. “I think any year we have the potential in our squad to win a conference championship, it’s just a matter of piecing it together.”
Elliott is not unfamiliar to a successful season. During his third season as assistant coach, the Rams won the Atlantic 10, and in 2014, his second season as head coach, the team secured 13 wins.
However, moving forward, Elliott noted that playing for a full 90 minutes is one of the team’s most significant struggles. “I don’t think we play for a full 90 minutes,” Elliott said. “We tend to play for periods of the game where we play well, and then other periods we go to sleep and don’t play so well. Inconsistency is the Rams’ greatest challenge, but Elliott noted the men’s solid defensive base and counter-attacking system is one of many strengths.
Senior goalkeeper, Nils Leifhelm, has been awarded Atlantic 10 defensive player of the week four times already this season. Sophomore midfielder and forward Stavros Zarakostas was awarded Atlantic 10 offensive player of the week once this year. Both players have tremendously impacted the success of the Rams this season.
Team co-captain Tyler Dickson acknowledged the hardships the Rams will face before postseason play. “We’re all pretty focused on trying to get the A-10 championship this year,” Dickson said. “It’s been pretty easy to keep the hard work up because we know we need to continue to improve.”
The Rams success in game-play reflects the hard work they put into practicing. Their determination to win the Atlantic 10 championship this year has been evident throughout the season, as the team tied New Hampshire and beat La Salle, both games which were recorded as a loss last year.
With only in-conference games left to play until the end of the regular season, Dickson recognized the Rams possible inability to remain unbeatable. “Every game is something to be concerned about,” Dickson said. “There’s no teams that we can take lightly. In-conference, everyone is playing to get wins and playing to make the postseason so we’ve just got to get one game at a time.”
To bring home the A-10 championship, they must have three consecutive postseason wins, two of which are on the road. “We have a mark on our back and we’re going to have to play even better than we have been to keep it going,” Elliott said.
The Rams will conclude regular season play on November 1, playing Duquesne at home.