Men’s soccer’s high-speed journey of ups and downs

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster

Senior co-captain Tyler Ranalli heads the ball during Sunday's match against LaSalle.

It was a rollercoaster.

From trying to just field a starting lineup, to nearly knocking off title contenders but losing to last-place teams, the men’s soccer season was a high-speed journey of ups and downs.

Inconsistencies and losing streaks wiped away the Colonials’ promise on their way to a second straight finish short of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

The Colonials finished out the season with a record of 5-10-2, 2-4-2 – just one win away from a trip to the playoffs.

“This season was kind of a rollercoaster: It started off great, but we came up short at the end,” junior defenseman Andri Alexandersson said.

Head coach Craig Jones summed up his feelings about the season in one word: “disappointed.”

“One of the first goals was to get back into the A-10 tournament, and we didn’t achieve that,” Jones said.

Eight of the team’s 10 losses came in two separate four-game losing streaks, one of which fell in the thick of A-10 play. It wasn’t the finish any of the Colonials were expecting, especially after their relatively strong start.

GW began its conference season by playing top-scorer Dayton to a tie and doing the same to defending A-10 champion Saint Louis. They rode that confidence through two more conference wins, against Fordham and Rhode Island, giving the Colonials points in all of their first four A-10 games and a comfortable fifth spot in the A-10 standings.

“In our A-10 performance, we were better than last year, even though we didn’t make the tournament,” Jones said.

But still, GW always appeared to be playing below their potential.

Whether it was uneven defensive play at the season’s outset or an inability to convert offensively toward the end, the talented team just couldn’t get on a roll.

In non-conference games the team scored 1.33 times per contest, but by the time conference play rolled around, that figure dwindled to a mere .875. Though they were out-shot by opponents just 12.2 to 9.9, the Colonials’ amount of missed opportunities near the net made the offense that much more frustrating.

The most volatility may have come from roster fluctuation that happened in goal. Sophomore Jean Pierre Van der Merwe started between the posts for the Colonials this year, but was eventually replaced by junior Luke Farrell.

Farrell excelled at first, and in turn, so did the Colonials. Through his first four games, three of which went to double overtime, he gave up only two goals, and GW went 2-0-2.

But that was his apex, and as the pressure to win conference games heightened, Farrell began to plummet downward, averaging 2.33 goals allowed through three straight losses.

For the final game of the season against title contender La Salle, in a last attempt to cling onto an eighth-place seed, Jones once again went back to Van der Merwe. The sophomore held his own and allowed just one controversial goal, but the Colonials ended their season with a scoreless effort and a fourth-straight loss. Despite outshooting La Salle 14 to six, GW couldn’t get the job done.

As the team goes back to the drawing board for next year, they will be without seniors Tyler Ranalli, Bailey Hinners, Abdul Shaban, Alex Sandland and Francisco Solorzano.

“I thought they did a great job this year leading and I couldn’t have asked for a better senior class,” sophomore Ross Higgins said. “I’m really going to miss them.”

Ranalli, who finished first on the team with six goals, was named to the conference’s all-academic team on Wednesday. After a brilliant start to the year, in which he scored five goals in five games, Ranalli ended his career on a sour note – scoring just one goal in conference play and having to leave the team’s final game early with a red card.

Freshman Tobi Adewole, a two-time A-10 Rookie of the Week who tallied one goal and one assist this year, was also honored this week as an All-Rookie team selection.

Newcomers Adewole, Garrett Heine and Miles McClearn made the largest impacts among the freshman class this year, starting 13, 14 and 11 games, respectively – giving GW valuable assets for the future.

“Looking at the numbers and the minutes that guys played, our freshman class and our sophomore class have done very well, so I think moving forward, we have guys here with the potential to do some good things,” Jones said.

Before they move on, they’ll have to shake the bad taste of a season that seemed to end too soon. Finishing with the same number of conference wins as last year, the team that showed so much promise expected so much more.

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