RICHMOND, Va. – Two shots off the post, two shots saved on the goal line by William & Mary defenders and a number of quality saves handed the VCU Men's Soccer team a 1-0 loss on Saturday night in front of a season-high crowd of 987 at Sports Backers Stadium.
The Rams fall to 8-6-0 overall and 3-3-0 in the CAA, while the Tribe improve to 8-5-0 and 5-2-0 in CAA play.
"We can't play for 45 minutes and expect to win against anyone, let alone a quality team with character like William & Mary," said VCU Head Coach Dave Giffard. "After spotting them the first half, I thought we played well for the majority of the second half with right type of energy; although we hit the post a few times and had a ball cleared off the goal line, we couldn't get the goal back."
Sophomore midfielder Romena Bowie created a chance for the Rams in the 12th minute of play as a through ball skipped through the William & Mary backline towards sophomore Jason Johnson. Johnson took two touches before shooting just inside the six-yard box, which William & Mary's Colin Smolinsky pushed away for a VCU corner kick.
Freshman defender Juan Monge Solano's ensuing corner kick attempt found the head of Johnson, but was blocked by a member of the Tribe on the goal line before being cleared out of play.
William & Mary scored the game's only goal just four minutes later, as John Ciampa headed home Ben Anderson's cross off of a corner kick. Anderson, working from the left corner kick spot, served a ball into the middle of the box which Ciampa head just inside the left goal post for the 1-0 lead.
Despite falling behind, the Rams continued to mount scoring chances throughout the match. A great scoring opportunity in the 30th minute of play amounted from a slick pass from junior midfielder Joseph Haboush, to the foot of junior forward Yoram Mwila. Mwila, cut through the right side of the box to accept the pass, before shooting to the left side of the goal, but Smolinksy pushed the shot just wide of the net.
The Tribe used the opportunity to start a counter attack, pushing the ball up the right sideline. The play culminated with a cross from 40 yards out on the right side of the pitch, towards the Ram's six-yard box. W&M's Neil Harrison volleyed the attempt, but VCU senior goalkeeper Josh Pantazelos was there to snare the attempt.
The two CAA foes fired off a combined 12 shots in the first 45 minutes, with each team netting six attempts. William & Mary held a slight edge in corners at 4-3.
The Rams had a pair of near misses in the early portion of the second half, as sophomore midfielder Nate Shiffman and senior defender Nick Rich's attempts both rocketed off the left goal post. Shiffman's shot in the 50th minute came through the run of play, after a number of quality passes freed up space on the right side of the 18-yard box. Shiffman's attempt snuck through several W&M defenders before hit the bottom of the left post.
Rich's attempt came just two minutes later, after the Tribe were whisted for a foul. The Kent, England, native's free kick attempt from the left side of the 18-yard box struck the post before being cleared out of play.
Play was halted for 15 following Rich's attempt, as a William & Mary player suffered an injury following the clearance.
The Black & Gold continued to press for chances over the last 38 minutes, but were unable to come away with a goal. The best chance during that frame come from off of a VCU corner kick in the 79th minute of play. Rich's corner kick from the left spot drove over the face of the goal and beyond, which freshman midfielder Mario Herrera Meraz one-timed back into the middle of the box. Johnson moved towards the ball and headed it towards the left side of the goal, but a William & Mary defender standing on the goal chested the ball down, before clearing the ball from danger.
VCU finished the match with an 18-8 shots advantage and 8-4 edge in corner kicks.
Pantazelos collected three saves in 90 minutes of action, while Smolinsky staved off six shots to earn the victory for William & Mary.
"This is another lesson for this young team, who now has to turn it around for two tough games on the road this week," added Giffard.
VCU will hit the road for matches at both UNC Wilmington (Wednesday at 7 p.m.) and Drexel (Saturday at 4 p.m.).