PISCATAWAY, N.J.- The 24th-ranked Rhode Island men's soccer team battled to a 1-1 double overtime draw with Rutgers, before sealing the victory with a 4-2 advantage in the penalty kick shootout. With their first win over the Scarlet Knights since October 14, 1986, the Rams advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and will face 16th-seeded Lehigh on Wednesday night.
Rhody took the lead just 5:41 into the match when senior Jeffrey Gonsalves (Markham, Ontario) tallied his team-leading 18th goal of the season. The Rams moved the ball up the field after freshman goalkeeper Chris Pennock (Middlesborough, England) pulled down a Rutgers corner kick and threw the ball out to Gonsalves. Gonsalves dribbled the ball down the left side of the field and sent a pass to junior Danleigh Borman (Cape Town, South Africa) who crossed another pass to classmate Lukasz Tumicz (Bisztynek, Poland) in the right corner of the field. Tumicz drew the Scarlet Knights' keeper towards him before redirecting the ball to the far post. There, junior Geoffrey Cameron (Attleboro, Mass.) trapped the ball and tapped a quick pass to the center of the goal where Gonsalves snuck a shot past Matt VanOekel for the 1-0 advantage.
"Geoff set me up with a great pass and I was just in the right place," Gonsalves said. "It wasn't the fanciest of goals, but it made it to the back of the net and that's what we needed."
The Scarlet Knights countered with a goal of their own with just 7:30 left in the first half when Nick LaBrocca blasted a shot into the top left corner of the net from 30 yards out, knotting the score at 1-1.
Rhody had an excellent chance at a go-ahead goal eight minutes into the second half when sophomore Kevin Hamill (Easton, Conn.) set Borman up with a breakaway ball. Borman took the ball in towards the goal but was stripped by VanOekel before gettng a solid look.
Rhody saw its best opportunities of the second half in the 72nd minute when Cameron drilled a shot on goal that was blocked by an RU defender. Junior Steve Mellen (North Kingstown, R.I.) collected the rebound and fired off another quick shot that VanOekel was able to get his hands on. A minute and a half later, Cameron had a great look at the top right corner but shot the ball just wide of the post.
After two scoreless overtime periods, the game moved into a decisive five-round penalty kick shootout. Rutgers shot first and LaBrocca got the ball past Pennock. Junior Dawid Badecki (Jelenia Gora, Poland) evened things up for Rhody with a shot that bounced off the inside of the right post and into the back of the net.
The Scarlet Knights sent Michael Crowley to the line next and the Rams caught a break when Crowley's shot sailed up over the crossbar. Tumicz followed with a shot that beat VanOekel and gave URI a 2-1 advantage. Chris Moore went on to score for Rutgers and Cameron netted hit attempt for Rhode Island, for a 3-2 Rhody lead after three rounds.
Pennock then came up huge, making a diving save on Bart Koffeman's shot, before junior Callum Bissett (Pencaitland, Scotland) followed with the goal that sealed the win for Rhode Island.
"I really wanted to make my shot so Jeff wouldn't be up there with all of that pressure on him," Bissett said, referring to Gonsalves, who would have taken Rhody's fifth shot, if necessary. "Once Chris made that save though, I knew we could do it."
"Rutgers is an excellent team and I think we proved ourselves out there tonight," added Head Coach John O'Connor. "Our guys just have the will to win. They want it so bad and they know what they need to do to get results. I'm real proud of them."
The Rams (12-5-5) will travel to 16th-seeded Lehigh (15-1-2) for a 7:00 p.m. game on Wednesday night. The game will mark URI's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament Second Round since the 2000 season when the Rams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.