VCU stuns men’s soccer, ends season

In a first round match-up of the Atlantic 10 Conference playoffs against No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth University, the men’s soccer team was able to keep the Rams’ potent offense off the board until the final minute of the game, but the Owls’ effort wasn’t enough.

With 44 seconds remaining in the game, VCU sophomore midfielder Mario Herrera Meraz stunned the Owls with a game-winning goal, ending Temple’s season.

Sophomore goalie Dan Scheck received his fourth straight start in the opening round. Though VCU controlled the ball for much of the game, Scheck helped eliminate any offensive opportunity until the game’s final minute. After Meraz’s goal, a defeated Scheck pounded the turf in frustration.

While it was Meraz who led the Rams in shots, forward Jason Johnson gave the Owls fits all night. Johnson, fresh off his newly acquired Atlantic 10 Conference Offensive Player of the Year award, drew special attention from Temple’s defense throughout all 90 minutes of the opener.

About midway through the second half, Johnson went down in a heap following a VCU corner kick. After being helped off the field, Johnson was immediately substituted back into the game. No foul was called.

The Owls, who struggled offensively all night, mustered very few shots. Senior midfielder Cody Calafiore led Temple in shots with three, one of which landed on net.

The first half was back and forth for both squads, with neither team having any significant scoring chances. The second half was a different story, however. VCU heavily controlled possession of the ball, not allowing Temple to get anything remotely going on offense. As the clock dwindled down to the final minutes of regulation, the Rams picked up the tempo, making it clear they had no intention of going to overtime with the underdog Owls.

VCU’s senior goalie Clark Hankins pushed the ball up field, setting his squad in motion to notch the game-winner. Hankins needed only two saves to record the shutout.

Temple coach Dave MacWilliams and players weren’t made available for comment following the loss.

With the loss, the Owls 2012 season is officially in the books. This years A-10 tournament features three nationally ranked squads, and another that was just recently ousted from the Top 25. Temple’s struggle to beat above .500 teams continued beyond the regular season.

Tyler Sablich can be reached at tyler.sablich@temple.edu or on Twitter @TySablich.

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