After a solid 8-6-3 campaign in the regular season, the Fordham men’s soccer team went into the Atlantic 10 Championships as the second overall seed with a 5-2-1 record within the conference. The Rams came out victorious, winning a pair of games before topping VCU in a dramatic shootout to win the conference title.
For the whole season, the Rams relied on a solid back line to go along with aggressive forwards who would push the ball forward and create opportunities for the offense. Most of that offense came from the Loebe brothers, Janos and Jannik, who share the team lead for goals with seven apiece. With these weapons in tow, Fordham traveled to Davidson, North Carolina with plenty of confidence, and they were not denied.
In the first round, the Rams faced Duquesne and immediately established an all-business approach. After a scoreless first half, the Rams continued to play excellent defense and eventually got on the board in the 64th minute. Junior Cole Stevenson made his way into the box for a shot on the right side, where Duquesne goalkeeper Evan Kozlowski made the initial stop, but could not control the rebound. Junior Eric Ohlendorf then knocked in the rebound for his fifth goal of the season.
That goal opened up the scoring for the Rams, who went on to score three more goals in the remaining 25 minutes of the match. In the 74th minute, freshman Joergen Oland connected on a long ball to sophomore Janos Loebe, the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, cutting in on the right side for a shot that Kozlowski got a piece of. However, the ball still had enough momentum to cross the goal line for Loebe’s seventh of the season.
Just four minutes later, Fordham struck again. This time, it was with a long lob into the attacking third. Ohlendorf picked up the pass from junior Patrick Thees, fighting off a Duquesne defender. Ohlendorf then snuck a shot inside the left post for his second goal of the game and sixth of the year.
The Rams then iced the victory with a fourth goal in 80th minute, as Ohlendorf completed the hat trick for his seventh goal of the season. Senior Andrew Hickey started the play on the left side, sending a cross right along the ground to the front of the net. Junior Jannik Loebe touched the ball back to Ohlendorf, who drilled home his third goal of the game and became the first Ram to record a hat trick since Kevin Meyer did so on Oct. 12, 2007 against La Salle.
“Eric was the difference in the match,” said head coach James McElderry. “He brings energy every game, whether it’s defending on set pieces or getting in on the attack. Real happy to see him get rewarded tonight.”
In the second round against Rhode Island, Fordham went on another scoring frenzy and put up another 4-0 shutout.
Fordham got on the board in the 16th minute. Junior Chris Bazzini got the play started, chipping the ball toward the six-yard box from the right side. The ball was knocked down by a Rhode Island defender and mishandled, allowing senior Ole Sandnes to fire the loose ball into the net from six yards out for his first goal of the season.
The game stayed at 1-0 until the second half, and the Rams caught a major break when Rhode Island’s Dante Lamb was red carded in the 66th minute, forcing URI to play down a man while trailing by one.
The Rams then took advantage of the shorthanded Rhode Island team in the 74th minute as Stevenson took the ball up the right side of the box, crossing the ball to Ohlendorf near the left post. Ohlendorf knocked the ball back in front of the goal, where Jannik Loebe knocked it in for his sixth goal of the season.
The Rams went on to score two more goals and won the match 4-0, advancing to the second round. The four-goal output in both matches was plenty for Fordham’s sophomore goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu and the Rams’ defense, as Nuhu earned his fifth and sixth shutouts of the year.
The victory set up an epic showdown between Fordham and VCU with the A-10 Championship on the line. Prior to the start of the tournament, the Fordham men’s soccer team preached, “Defend, Defend, Defend,” and that’s exactly what it did.
It was clear throughout the entire A-10 Championship that Nuhu was not going to concede, not even once. The game was scoreless at the end of regulation and also at the end of two overtime sessions. Although the Rams did see their fair share of chances throughout that match, excellent goalkeeping from VCU kept the game knotted.
The shootout began with VCU’s Steve Dal Molin, who converted on his penalty kick attempt, while Fordham’s Janos Loebe converted against VCU backup goalkeeper Joe Rice, who was brought in for the shootout to replace Pierre Gardan.
In round two, VCU’s Dakota Barnathan was denied by Nuhu on a shot to the lower left corner, while Oland’s shot found the left side of the net for a 2-1 Fordham edge.
Round three saw Nuhu come up with another huge save, giving Fordham a big chance to take control of the shootout. However, Jannik Loebe’s attempt sailed high, keeping the score at 2-1.
Both teams converted in round four with attempts by VCU’s Greg Boehme and Fordham junior Matthew Lewis, putting the score at 3-2 with one shooter remaining. Eli Lockaby got the final opportunity for VCU, but his shot was denied by Nuhu to give Fordham the Atlantic 10 crown.
Nuhu was selected as the Championship’s Most Outstanding Player. The VCU game featured his third shutout of the tournament, as well as two saves and three stops in the shootout.
They will see their next action on Thursday, when they face Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Championship in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
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