The state of athletics at the University of Rhode Island has never been stronger. Men’s basketball is fresh off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. The football team looks like they’re on their way to their first winning season since 2001. The team that is tearing it up and still flying under the radar, however, is the men’s soccer team.
They’ve been covered in the paper this year, most notably their 6-0-0 start. The best start in program history was highlighted by a ridiculous six-game shutout streak, spanning an even more incomprehensible 649 minutes. Since that shutout streak ended versus Brown the team is 0-2, losing back-to-back games for the first time in nine contests.
Perhaps it’s because they are overshadowed by the football teams sudden success, or maybe its because soccer is often times seen as a secondary sport to the “big four” in North American sports, but this soccer team deserves more credit and reputation than what they are getting.
Through eight games, the men’s soccer team has made a habit out of dominating their opponents on both sides of the ball. That includes a goal differential of +12, with the Rams averaging 2.13 goals per game, compared to .61 goals allowed per game. Under the leadership and coaching of Gareth Elliott, this team has elevated their ceiling to that of a top program in the country. His efforts were rewarded with the Rams being ranked inside the top 25 schools nationally, a position the Rams held until they lost to Brown.
This team has been led by standout performances on all sides of the ball. Up front, the Rams have had nine different players find the back of the net, including Stavros Zarokostas, who has cashed in for four goals in seven games this year. In net, true freshman Roger Penske, along with his partner Stefan Schmidt have been doing a marvelous job of holding the fort down. While defensive statistics don’t appear on stats sheets, the Rams defense has performed phenomenally as well. The Rhode Island goalkeepers have made 28 saves this season, which means that their opponents have been limited to a mere 33 shots on goal in eight games. That is the definition of domination.
With all of that, this team is still undersold on campus. Through their three home games, the team averages a little over 2,000 fans per game, while the Ryan Center can hold up to 7,700. While I understand the URI soccer complex isn’t quite the size of the Ryan Center or even Meade Stadium, this team deserves to be seen by more than 2,000 students. They’re one of the best programs in the country.
URI men’s soccer is where URI has arguably its most famous alumni, Geoff Cameron. Cameron played on the US Men’s National Team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, making starts in three of the four games the American squad played in. In Kingston, Cameron was a member of the last URI team to head to the national tournament back in 2006.
This team and program itself are criminally underrated on campus. If you’re reading this and are looking for some plans the next couple of weeks, head on down to the URI Soccer Complex behind The Ryan Center. You will not be disappointed by what you see on the pitch.