RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University men's soccer took fourth-ranked University of North Carolina to the wire but fell 1-0 in its non-conference finale Tuesday evening at Sports Backers Stadium.
North Carolina's Josh Rice scored the game-winning goal in the
32nd minute and improved the Tarheels to 12-1-1 on the season,
while VCU falls to 6-3-6.
"Tonight was a tale of two halves," said VCU Head Coach Dave Giffard. "The adjustment to the speed of play associated with one of the top attacking teams in the country took us the first 45 minutes. In the second half we were much more comfortable and carried the play for long stretches of time. Unfortuntaely when you play against a team like UNC you can't spot them the first 45 minutes and expect to get a result. Now we turn our attention to a very talented Towson team on Sunday."
North Carolina's Kirk Urso fired a shot to the right post in the fifth minute but VCU goalkeeper Josh Pantazelos, who made three saves in the net, was there to punch it away for his first stop of the night. The Rams then countered three minutes later when senior C.J. Gehin-Scott took a shot off a rebound but Tarheels' keeper Scott Goodwin made the save.
Pantazelos came up with another stop at the 10:07 mark from a shot off the foot of Enzo Martinez. VCU's Nick Rich sent a cross into the box in the 28th minute but senior Lucas Paulini's header sailed high of the net.
North Carolina, which held a 9-2 advantage in shots and 8-0 margin in corners during the opening period, eventually broke through and went ahead 1-0 less than 15 minutes to go in the first half. Robbie Lovejoy sent a touch pass through the middle to Josh Rice, who then maneuvered past a charging Pantazelos and found the net to give the Tarheels a one-goal advantage at the break.
VCU's Jason Johnson (pictured, right) posted the first two shots of the second half, a header in the 47th minute and a deflected strike inside the box at the 56:15 mark. Johnson, who came off the bench and registered a team-high three shots with one on goal, continued to be a force and nearly tied the score in the 68th minute but Goodwin made a diving stop to keep the Rams off the board.
Senior Jake Van Yahres blasted a strike from about 35 yards out in the 77th minute but it drifted high of the net. VCU made a final push in the closing minutes but couldn't find the net and lost for just the third time this season.
North Carolina held an 11-6 advantage in shots and an 8-3 margin in corners.
Following its final non-conference match of the season, the Rams, who are currently in a three-way tie for second place, find themselves in the heat of the Colonial Athletic Association playoff race. With just four points separating second- through ninth-place teams, it's clear the final stretch of the regular season will be very competitive. All 12 CAA teams have at least two wins with 10 teams sporting three wins or fewer. Only the top four teams qualify for the conference tournament.
VCU closes out the regular season with three-straight road
matches beginning with Towson on Sunday, Oct. 31 at 1 p.m.
The Rams then travel to James Madison on Nov. 3 and Delaware on