By Leo Hainline ’22
The Providence College Men’s Soccer Team opened their season with a 4-0 victory, protecting their home turf against their in-state rivals, the University of Rhode Island. The Friars and the Rams were both scoreless in the first half, but a second-half offensive explosion helped PC seize the victory. Head coach Craig Stewart has plenty of positives to take away from the Friars’ first game.
The Friars were initially scheduled to play against Boston College for their opener, but due to COVID-19, the Eagles were forced to postpone the matchup to a later date. URI was able to step up at a moment’s notice and square off against PC in Friartown on Feb. 20. Last year, URI made the NCAA Division Men’s I Soccer Tournament and was one of the most dominant teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Their top goal scorer from last year, Filippo Tamburini, continues to lead the team. The match was anticipated to be a good challenge for the Friars, especially without Preseason All-Big East selection Paulo Lima ’22, who was out with a lower-leg injury.
During the first half, the Friars were energized and physical on the pitch, but the team appeared a bit rusty as they struggled to generate key passes needed in the final third of the field to break-through on goal. PC was strong in possession and delivered a few precise through-balls but created no clear-cut opportunities. It was actually URI, against the run of play, that had the best chances to score. A few shots on goal forced several solid saves from goalkeeper Rimi Olatunji ’22, who kept the game deadlocked at 0-0.
The floodgates opened in the second half. In the 54th minute, Christopher Roman ’22 out-muscled the URI defender on the right flank and supplied a dangerous cross into the box. Gage Raftery ’23 attacked the ball and volleyed it into the back of the net. This was Raftery’s first goal for the Friars, and it was certainly a memorable one.
PC doubled their lead five minutes later. Gevork Diarbian ’24 dished the ball to Kevin Vang ’22, who returned a perfect through-ball that Diarbian was able to finish into the top right corner. Diarbian played high school soccer a few minutes away from Friartown at La Salle Academy, and the local product could be an integral part of the squad going forward.
Soon after his goal, Diarbian contributed an assist to Roman that just about sealed the Friars’ victory. Brendan McSorley ’24 attacked up the left flank, finding Diarbian in the middle of the box. Diarbian then laid the ball off for Roman on the right side. From there, all Roman had to do was fire the ball into the back of the net.
Even then, the Friars were not done scoring. Aidan Melville ’24 introduced himself to Friartown by striking a pin-point freekick on his debut. He powered the ball over URI’s wall and placed it so perfectly into the top-left corner that URI’s goalkeeper, Stefan Schmidt, did not even attempt to save it. After this strike, it is likely that Melville will step up to take similar dead-ball situations in the future.
The Friars will play their first Big East game at the University of Connecticut on Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. If PC performs the way they did in the second half against URI, the Huskies could be in for a long afternoon.