After an exciting season, the Golden Rams men’s soccer team wrapped things up on Saturday, Nov. 12, falling to the number four team in the country, Charleston (W.V.). The Rams finish their season sporting a 11-5-3 record, and broke through into the national stage for the first time for any of the men on the team. It was the first NCAA appearance for West Chester since 2002.
The Rams played with the 17-2-1 Charleston squad for the whole match, doing well with matching them step for step. The only way the team could break through was by way of the penalty kick.
After a scoreless tie in the first half, the Golden Eagles put some early pressure on the Rams in the opening minutes of the second, drawing a penalty kick that would prove to be the difference in the match. In the 48th minute, Will Roberts would take the kick and beat James Wood, who guessed the right side but just couldn’t reach the ball, which was placed perfectly.
Despite the frustration of giving up a goal, this did not cause West Chester to lose heart as they continued to fight, proving that the two teams belonged on the same field. While the Golden Eagles had the skill, it was clear that the Golden Rams’ hearts were fully invested in the game, matching the speed of their very athletic counterparts.
While the shot totals began to become lopsided, the Rams did a good job in preventing many good attempts, as Wood only faced five shots that made it on goal out of the 17 attempted. Unfortunately, the penalty kick was not where the scoring ended for the night.
In the closing minutes of the match, WCU was making their final push for a goal, sacrificing the potential for a counterattack with the chance to tie the game up. Although they were able to create some pressure, like most of the match, they were unable to garner much firepower.
Perhaps the closest they came to tying it was in the 74th minute, after a terrible misplay by Charleston, Jason Pixley had a world of space from which to shoot. However, it appeared the young sophomore’s nerves got the better of him as he did not use the space awarded to him to his advantage. His premature shot sailed harmlessly wide, nullifying any danger, and Charleston retained its lead.
This miscue forced the Rams to become very aggressive in the final minutes of the game, and their highly seeded foes were able to put the final nail in the coffin. After a West Chester turnover, the Golden Eagles responded with a strong push up the left side of the field, where they were then able to methodically work their way through the box through quick passing.
This put keeper Wood in a tough spot where he had to make an aggressive play, seeing as how he did not have the numbers back that he would have liked. What resulted was a chaotic scramble with bodies flying everywhere on both sides trying to score, and others doing everything in their power to prevent that. The end result, however, would be a goal by UC’s Patrick Guier that put a fork in the West Chester season for good.
In the 87th minute, tally increased Guier’s goal total to nine on the season.
While the loss ends the season for the Rams, it does not disvalue the season the young men had. They overcame all odds, including outside expectations and injuries such as the early season loss of Brett Beaumont, to make the best of their season. Having the chance to play one more game as a team before the seniors graduated had to have been a special moment for every man on the team.
With such a mix of different talents, many of them still with eligibility for next year, the team looks poised to be on a high level again in 2017. Their coach, Michael Benn, did a tremendous job of rallying a team together, causing a sense of unity that was not felt last year.
With a team with the same level of chemistry this year as next, the sky is the limit for the future of Golden Rams men’s soccer, especially with Benn at the helm.
Five senior members have played their final game in a Golden Rams uniform for their career: Brian Schaefer, Brett Beaumont, Connor Greiss, Wyatt Dungan, and Miguel Ross. Congratulations to all of these men on a successful career, and best of luck in the future.
Ryan Hunt is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RH803937@wcupa.edu.