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Dukes, Tribe, Spiders emerge as national title contenders

The three FCS level schools are already showing themselves to be national championship material early on.

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When it comes to college football in Virginia, the spotlight is usually dominated by the Virginia Tech Hokies and Virginia Cavaliers, the state’s lone FBS programs–college football’s top division. However, three schools at the FCS level–college football’s second tier–are making some early season headlines and have established themselves as national championship contenders.

This week’s edition of the FCS Coaches Poll has the James Madison Dukes ranked 7th nationally along with the William and Mary Tribe at #8 and the Richmond Spiders at #9.

Despite stumbling at Stony Brook this past weekend, the Spiders have already made the biggest splash this year when they went into Charlottesville and drilled UVA 37-20 to start the season. They followed up that performance with a 34-0 shutout over Norfolk State the following week.

The early success shouldn’t be all that surprising since the Spiders return 15 of 22 starters from a team that went 10-4 last year and advanced to the national semifinals before losing to eventual champion North Dakota State. This week the Spiders will try to get back on track when they host #21 Colgate.

The Dukes missed an opportunity to one up Richmond this past weekend when they were beaten by the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. However, JMU dispatched its first two opponents, Morehead State and Central Connecticut, by a combined score of 136-28 and will look to return to that type of dominating fashion this Saturday when they travel to Maine to open conference play. With 16 of 22 starters returning, improvement on last year’s first round playoff exit is expected in Harrisonburg.

The Tribe got off to a rocky start and were overmatched in Raleigh against NC State in an opening week 48-14 loss, but rebounded nicely to get a 10 point road win over Hampton. That performance was followed up with a 25 point victory against Norfolk State this past weekend. William and Mary returns 16 of 22 starters from a team that went 8-3 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs (losing to Richmond), so expectations are high in Williamsburg.

Next up for the Tribe is their conference opener against Elon this Saturday.

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Photos and Game Summary: VCU Women Lose Hard Fought Battle Against St. Joseph’s

A similar story the men on Friday. The women gave up a goal in the waning minutes of the game and ran out of time to tie it up.

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Official Game Summary

Score: Saint Joseph’s 1, (RV)/#25 VCU 0
Location: Richmond, Va. (Sports Backers Stadium)
Records: (RV)/#25 VCU 13-3-0 (9-1-0 Atlantic 10), Saint Joseph’s 5-11-2 (5-5-0 A-10)

The short story: Despite the Rams dominating possession, the Hawks scored in the 87th minute to grab a 1-0 win in the regular season finale.

QUICK FACTS

HOW IT HAPPENED

  • Gutzmer had the first scoring chance of the day in the seventh minute, taking her first touch around a defender, and firing a low-angle shot at the near post that forced a kick save.
  • In the 36th minute, Jerabek got a foot to a cross that then fell to Kershner, who slid to put a shot towards goal that was blocked.
  • Seconds before halftime, sophomore winger Ella Higgins ran onto a bouncing ball in the box and volleyed a shot over the bar.
  • VCU looked dangerous throughout the second half, racking up 15 corner kicks and 14 total shots in the period.
  • Young made a good save in the 60th minute, diving to her right to stop a breakaway attempt.
  • In the 69th minute, Kershner flicked a Jerabek cross with the outside of her foot inches over the bar.
  • The Rams had a strong double chance in the 75th, with Gutzmer laying a ball of for Kropinack, whose shot was saved, and junior midfielder Anna Bagley pushing the rebound just wide.
  • The Hawks scored the lone goal of the game on a corner kick, with Ashley Orendac flicking a header from Danielle Stuart’s first touch and Natalie Nevins’ service.

UP NEXT
VCU hosts a rematch against Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. from Sports Backers Stadium.

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Photos and Game Summary: VCU Men Fall to Fordham

With just two minutes left in the game Fordham found the back of the net and the Rams couldn’t respond in the remaining minutes.

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Official VCU Game Summary

Score: Fordham 1, (RV) VCU 0
Location: Richmond, Va. (Sports Backers Stadium)
Records: (RV) VCU 9-5-1 (4-3-0 Atlantic 10), Fordham 6-8-1 (4-3-0 A-10)

The short story: Fordham scored against the run of play in the 89th minute to hand VCU a heartbreaking loss in an Atlantic 10 clash Saturday night.

QUICK FACTS

HOW IT HAPPENED

  • Fordham’s Matt Sloan had a look at goal in the 14th minute, but Sewell stepped in to cover the net and block the shot.
  • While there were few scoring chances either way in the first half, VCU jumped on the attack early in the second. In the 46th minute, Fitch played a long ball to the feet of sophomore winger Celio Pompeu, who laid the ball off to a charging Varela Fraga. The Spaniard played the ball back out wide to Pompeu, who gave the ball to freshman midfielder Philip Klomp on an overlapping run. Klomp played a first-time cross into the six-yard box, where Varela Fraga ran onto it and sent a shot rolling just wide of the post.
  • In the 57th minute, Klomp cut inside on his right foot past a defender and fired a rising shot barely over the crossbar.
  • Robinson laced a dangerous long-range effort in the 61st minute that rattled the crossbar.
  • Pompeu crossed the ball for Robinson in the 86th minute, whose header deflected off a Fordham defender and into the arms of goalkeeper Nick Buchholz.
  • Galen Flynn put Fordham on top with just under two minutes left in regulation, scoring on an assist from Paul Makaj.

QUOTING HEAD COACH DAVE GIFFARD
“The game is honest, and we paid tonight for things that are inside our team that need to get sorted out. In a team game, sometimes players need to do things that aren’t natural or comfortable for them because the team structure dictates that they do. Tonight we paid for some of those things that during the course of the year have improved, but are still there. We had plenty of chances and control of the game, but remained at 0-0, which then puts a microscope on the defending moments in transition or on set pieces that many college teams live for. Fordham scored in one of those transition moments, but with only a couple of minutes left, and we simply ran out of time to equalize.

It was a harsh but honest lesson for our group. In the college game, any team can beat you, and you have to do the things over and over again consistently that give you the better chance to win. We didn’t do enough of those things tonight to make sure that we won.”

GIFFARD ON THE SENIOR CLASS
“This is not only a special group of players, but more importantly, a special group of people. We’ve been through so much together as a group the last four and a half years, and these guys will be ones that we will miss around here for a long time. But, I know that each of them will be successful in life and I can’t wait to be a fan for their journey.”

UP NEXT
VCU plays its final non-conference match of the regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 27, traveling to Bloomington, Ind., to take on the national runners-up from the spring season, (RV)/#17 Indiana. The match will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus starting at 7 p.m.

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Photos and Game Summary: Rams Nab Late Winner Against Seahawks

For the third time this season the Rams won in overtime.

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Official VCU Game Summary

Score: (RV) VCU 2, (RV)/#22 UNCW 1 (OT)
Location: Richmond, Va. (Sports Backers Stadium)
Records: (RV) VCU 9-4-1, (RV)/#22 UNCW 8-5-1

The short story: Senior midfielder Oquin Robinson fired home a free kick goal in the 100th minute to give the Rams their second consecutive overtime win.

QUICK FACTS

  • This is VCU’s third win of the season against a team that was ranked in one of the three major polls. The Seahawks are currently #22 in the TopDrawerSoccer poll, while both the Rams and UNCW are receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
  • It’s also the third overtime win of the season for the Rams.
  • Robinson’s goal was his third of the season and fourth of his career. It was also his first career game-winner.
  • Freshman midfielder William Hitchcock scored his third goal of the year to tie the game in the second half, with assists from Philip Klomp and Pablo Varela Fraga, who both picked up their first career assists in black and gold.
  • UNCW outshot VCU 13-7, but the Rams held a 7-3 advantage in shots on goal, aided by VCU defenders blocking several Seahawk shots.
  • There were 32 combined fouls in a tightly-contested, physical match.

HOW IT HAPPENED

  • Robinson had the first scoring chance of the night for VCU, delivering a shot to the bottom left corner that forced a save in the 13th minute.
  • In the 38th minute, Varela Fraga charged down the left wing and ripped a shot that UNCW goalkeeper Gabriel Perrotta could only parry away.
  • The Seahawks got on the board first shortly after halftime, as Nicolas Molina finished off a cross from Cannon Tootle.
  • The Rams had a dangerous opportunity in the 55th minute as senior Jared Greene started a move in the VCU half, playing a ball for Klomp. Klomp then played a through ball for freshman midfielder Damian Gallegos, who had his shot deflected before it was smothered by Perrotta.
  • VCU equalized in the 67th minute. Varela Fraga, whose hold-up play was effective all night for the Rams, received a ball with his back to goal and turned around a defender. He played a ball wide for Klomp, who hit a first-time pass with his left across the face of the goal for Hitchcock to bury in the back of the net at the back post.
  • Klomp played another great left-footed cross in the 97th minute, floating a ball for Greene, who volleyed a shot that forced a save at the near post.
  • Robinson gave VCU the win in the final minute of the first overtime period, taking a free kick just outside the box and blasting it over the wall and into the top right corner.

QUOTING HEAD COACH DAVE GIFFARD
“I was proud of the guys tonight for finding a way to grind out a result against a very good team. We were down some guys again, but as this group has done this year, different people stepped up and got the job done.”

UP NEXT
The Rams get back into conference play, hosting Fordham on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. from Sports Backers Stadium. Saturday will also be VCU’s Senior Night.

Every home match is streamed on ESPN+. For more information on VCU Men’s Soccer tickets, click here.

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