The University of Rhode Island men’s soccer team extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games after beating the University of Massachusetts 4-1 last Friday and Saint Joseph’s University 2-0 on Sunday.
Rhode Island, on their longest unbeaten streak since 1995, raised its record to 10-3-3 overall with a 6-0-0 showing in Atlantic 10 Conference play. For the first time since 2006, URI was ranked in the College Soccer News’ and Soccer America’s national polls, tied at 30th with Clemson and ranked 21st, respectively.
The opening score in Friday’s matchup against UMass was for URI, on a free kick taken by junior Ryan Oakley that was deflected into the net by redshirt junior Mike Casey nine minutes into the game. The lead did not last, though, as before the end of the half UMass’ top scorer Josh Schwartz netted a penalty against senior goalkeeper Thomas Spenser.
“When you combine poor quality of play and poor effort levels, it’s not a good half,” Rhode Island head coach Gareth Elliott said.
This pace changed after the break. Within the first five minutes the Rams scored the game-winning goal off of the leg of redshirt freshman Dante Lamb as the result of a corner kick. Lamb scored again for URI in the final third of the match with a penalty kick that curled into the top of the net, making it 3-1 for the Rams. He was honored as the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week for the second time this season for his performance.
Continued close efforts from both sides kept the match interesting throughout until freshman Justin Clancy scored a late goal on a breakaway to secure a 4-1 victory for URI.
The first match of the weekend was also Senior Night for Matt Sykes, Spenser, Jon Cloutier, Falko Friedrichs, Trevor Moran and Casey, all of whom started the match.
“All of our seniors have been tremendous,” Â Elliott said. “They all bring something different to us, but they all bring a great work ethic and a great attitude. It makes our job easy. It’s a group that will be missed a lot.”
Rhode Island looked to win only its second road game of the season on Sunday at Saint Joseph’s. URI got on the board just before the end of the first half, as sophomore Wesley Matthews scored the eventual game-winner after a free kick from Oakley. Matthews was named one of the GoRhody.com Student-Athletes of the Week for his performance.
The Rams doubled this lead 22 minutes later with Sykes’ team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Nils Leifhelm stopped each of the six Saint Joseph’s shots he faced to post his seventh shutout of the season, the most for the Rams in over a decade.
Oakley said despite the scoreboard, “They put us under a lot of pressure and held a lot of the possession.”
Looking to the future of the team, Oakley, the conference leader in assists, said “offensively it’s a lot better and overall as a team we’re defending a lot better. If we want to be the best, we have to beat the best.”
The Rams will travel to Saint Louis University for a matchup this Sunday. The Billikens were ranked No. 17 in the CSN national poll.
“I think our team is ready for that now with the streak that we’re on,” Elliot said. “We’re going to have a chance to beat them, now’s the time. We won’t be lacking confidence but we will certainly respect them and their abilities and try and have a game plan that will get us the result.”