The opening minutes of men’s soccer’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal match against Rhode Island Saturday at the Mount Vernon field turned out to be the most crucial of the game.
The Colonials struggled to defend early attacks from the Rams and relied on risky tackles and fouls that created the set piece opportunities for the Rams to capitalize on.
Off of a corner kick from Rhode Island sophomore midfielder Stavros Zarokostas, senior Rams defender Tyler Dickson headed in a goal less than 12 minutes into the contest.
GW (9-7-2, 6-2-0 A-10) was unable to match the goal despite six shots on goal in the contest as the team fell 1–0 to the Rams (10-5-3, 4-3-1 A-10) and was eliminated from the conference tournament – effectively ending their season.
“We played the occasion more than we played the game,” head coach Craig Jones said. “We made some mistakes early which cost us the goal, and we were never able to get a goal back.”
The Colonials came into the outing as the No. 3 seed and were given the right to host No. 6 Rhode Island. The team has not made it past the first round of the A-10 tournament since 2011.
The two sides finished with comparable stats sheets, with GW’s shots, shots on goal, corner kicks and saves all within one of its opponent’s totals.
Both teams played physical games, with five yellow cards issued – three against the Rams and two against the Colonials.
“They came out quick and they put a lot of pressure on us in the first half,” senior defender Christian Lawal said. “It’s a physical game you see a lot of cards, but we’re always up for a challenge.”
After the early goal, the Colonials regained their composure and played a more disciplined style. They set up multiple dangerous opportunities to even the score with a free kick at the edge of the box.
Sophomore midfielder Drini Redzepi hit the upper right corner of the goal post in the 42nd minute.
“We just tried to calm it down. Stop the silly free kicks and corners we were giving away,” Lawal said. “When we were a goal down, they backed off quite a bit, and that gave us the chance to get on the ball more and try and play a lot more.”
GW continued to match the Ram’s agressiveness in the final minutes before the break, creating multiple set piece opportunities. However, the Colonials failed to capitalize on their chances.
“We’re not a team that really relies on set pieces to score that many goals. But we do try honestly to make the most of our chances,” Lawal said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be today.”
To start the second half, the Colonials came out with more pressure, pushing down the wings and setting up potential scoring opportunities to freshman midfielder Peirce Williams, freshman forward Oscar Haynes Brown and junior forward Dylan Lightbourn.
Within a two-minute span from the 64th to the 66th minute, the Colonials tallied two shots on goal and a corner, showing their desperation increase in the one-game elimination tournament.
Two of GW’s last openings to score came in the 78th and 79th minutes, when sophomore midfielder Alexy Boehm registered a high shot and one minute later a header from Haynes Brown flew just wide of the goal post.
The Colonials pushed themselves within striking range close in the final minute of the game, but Lightbourn was unable to get enough on his header and the Rams goalkeeper made the save.