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La Salle upended by Rhode Island in Atlantic 10 Tournament

Two first-half goals were too much to overcome for the Explorers in North Carolina

Matt Ralph

A potent Rhode Island counter-attack was too much for La Salle on Thursday evening as they fell to the lower seed 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Championship at Davidson College’s Alumni Field.

Rhode Island (8-10-1) took control of the match with a pair of goals 32 seconds apart late in first half, the first off a counter-attack from Ryan Bailey and the second on a through ball to Stavros Zarokostas that put the Explorers in a 2-0 hole going into the break.

Struggling to maintain possession in the early minutes of the second half, La Salle started to carve out some possession and threaten through set pieces and long throw-ins from Zach Rutherford.

The Explorer offense came ever so close to starting the comeback midway through the half, but Rams goalkeeper Nils Leifhelm held his ground on a number of balls in the air and made an incredible left-handed save on a ball headed down and toward the goal by Matt Robinson (Lansdale, Pa.).

Robinson would find the back of the net in a scramble in front of the net after a Jake Saba (Harleysville, Pa.) free kick in the 80th minute, but the belief didn't last for long as Bailey again collected the ball off a counter attack and beat goalkeeper Mike Kirk (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) to his left to ice the game in the 83rd minute.

The loss ends La Salle’s season on a sour note, but the fight on display when they went down by a pair of goals was a positive take away from a season that exceeded expectations and a team that started only two seniors in Thursday night’s game.

A third-place finish in the conference and a winning record (10-8-1) for first-year head coach Rob Irvine will give them something to build on next year.