The Rams (0-15-1, 0-10-0 MEC) were unable to come through with a win Sunday afternoon on Senior Day at home in Shepherdstown, W.Va., against the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals (4-9-2, 2-8-1 MEC) losing by a 3-0 score.
Despite the score, it took a while for the Cardinals to generate good ball movement to set up shots early on. After a shot that went high by senior midfielder/forward Carlos Molina at the 3:06 mark, the Rams’ defense played very aggressive and did not allow any more shot opportunities for the Cardinals for close to the next 13 minutes.
However, this stellar defensive display did not last for long, as the Cardinals got on the scoreboard first at the 16:03 mark thanks to an impressive goal by junior defender Martin Minuzzi. He got enough space away from Rams’ defenders to get the shot off, sending it past senior goalkeeper Jacob Clements of the Rams.
The Cardinals now led 1-0, but their offense would play relatively stagnant and ineffective for the rest of the first half. Minuzzi was the only Cardinals’ player the rest of the half to take a shot, as he took two shots to try to extend the Cardinals’ slim lead. The first shot went high over the goal, while the next one was saved by Clements.
On the other side, the Rams had numerous promising chances to score themselves in the first half. Senior midfielder Casey Capizzi headed a shot high over the goal just 33 seconds into the game, as the Cardinals’ defense fell asleep very early on and very nearly paid a high price for it.
Rams senior forward/midfielder Justin Marshall found disappointment with his shot that hit the post at the 3:45 mark in the first half. Later in the half, junior midfielder Justin Daniels had one of his shots go wide right. Junior forward Alejandro Oliart also could not find his target, as his two first half shots went wide right and wide left, respectively.
The Rams came out shooting early on, looking for a quick strike for a lead, but could not send one to the back of the net.
At halftime, the Cardinals made adjustments to their attack to help extend their lead.
Moving the ball better and finding open spots in the Rams’ defense led to 10 second half shots for the Cardinals, as they finally put constant pressure on the Rams’ defense.
That pressure eventually led to another goal for the Cardinals. At the 52:13 mark, senior defender Owain Hawkins placed a nice ball to teammate Yafeu Rougier, a senior forward, who launched a beautiful shot to the back of the net to give the Cardinals more breathing room with a 2-0 score.
The Rams’ defense had been playing well up until this point, but suffered a lapse that they would be unable to recover from.
Sensing the urgency at hand, the Rams tried every way to score to try and cut into the deficit. Senior midfielder Luis Prado attempted to put the Rams on the scoreboard with a shot of his own, but it was saved by Cardinals’ junior goalkeeper Tyler Shotwell at the 63:59 mark.
Marshall showed great for the Rams, as he got off another quality shot just minutes later, but this one was again saved by Shotwell at the 70:22 mark in the game.
These saves helped give more and more confidence to the Cardinals’ attack. The Cardinals used this confidence to put an exclamation point on the game at the 75:28 mark, as Minuzzi recorded his second point on the day by assisting on a goal by teammate Jordan Simpson. Simpson placed an excellent shot past Clements to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead, all but cementing the road victory.
Capizzi and sophomore defender Andres Villalon likewise tried to reduce the Cardinals’ lead as well, but their shots were saved at the 80:48 and 83:59 marks, respectively, by Shotwell again. Shotwell proved to be a terrible thorn in the side of the Rams all game long, saving any shot that came his direction, effectively ending the Rams’ comeback attempt.
Facing eight shots on goal is not an ideal situation for any goalkeeper, but Clements’ five saves helped make the final score margin look more respectable.
From the start, this game was extremely physical, as the Rams committed 13 fouls in the first half. Finishing the game with 18 fouls, it was clear that the Rams were not always playing with their heads in the game.
The Rams found success moving the ball, setting up 10 shots in the game, but there was clearly a lack of execution on the part of the Rams’ players, even in light of Shotwell’s performance.
The Cardinals had four corner kicks to the Rams’ three, so both sides had additional chances to score, but ultimately could not when called upon. Both defenses held tough in this area, as the ball was cleared out of harm’s way when it really needed to be.
Certainly the Rams’ seniors did not want the game to go like this on Senior Day, but not all is gloom for the group. They have put forth countless hours of practice, blood, sweat, and tears into the program and should be commended for it.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Rams will try to earn their first win of the season, as they go on the road to face Concord University. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com