The men's soccer team (4-0-1) traveled 30 miles south to take on URI (2-4-0) Saturday night, pulling away early and cruising to a 5-0 win. The offense was firing on all cylinders with five goals from four different players, and the defense continued its dominance, not allowing a single goal in the past four games of play.
"The score says it all — it was our best performance from beginning to end," said Austin Mandel '12, the team's leading scorer on the season with four goals.
The No. 25 Bears came out of the gate with an offensive mindset that propelled the team to three first-half goals, maintaining a comfortable lead that allowed the team to relax and covert its chances.
Dylan Remick '13 scored his first collegiate goal on a corner kick from co-captain David Walls '11 just 17 minutes into the game. Sean Rosa '12 set up Evan Coleman '12 for a goal just one minute later as he sent a shot low and to the right of the outstretched hands of Rhody's Chris Pennock.
Fifteen minutes later, Jon Okafor '11 tallied his second goal of the season off of a pass from T.J. Thompson '10, putting the Bears up 3-0 heading into halftime.
"The second goal was right after the first, and then we scored the third — those were real big confidence boosters heading into the half," Walls said. "We finished our chances on Saturday, whereas, in a couple of our other previous games, we created the chances, but couldn't convert."
Six different Bears scored points for the team in the first half and, heading into the second frame, the offensive onslaught continued to bury Rhody in an even deeper hole. The Bears kept up the intensity on both sides of the ball as the Rams failed to record a shot on goal.
"We're a little small up front with our strikers, Mandel and Rosa, so we've had to readjust our style of play this year to be more patient and have precision passing," Walls said. "We're giving ourselves the opportunity to score by having such a well-rounded offense."
Just 12 minutes into the second half, Mandel began his offensive streak, scoring on a breakaway goal and following up that effort with another goal three minutes later with a hard shot to the left corner. Nick Elenz-Martin '10 crossed the ball to Okafor, who headed the ball to Mandel for his fourth goal of the season.
"Overall, our team chemistry is great," Mandel said. "We're passing well and getting everyone involved with our unselfish play."
Paul Grandstrand '11 once again held his own in the net as he tallied his fourth shutout of the season behind a strong backfield that has continued to develop into a solid defensive force in the Ivy League. Consequently, the team's defensive success does not start with the backfield but extends to the rest of the team, Walls said.
"We have a nice midfield that protects the defenders well," he said. "It's a whole team effort rather than just the back four taking all the credit."
The starting four defensive backs have played nearly every minute of the five games thus far, and the consistency definitely shows in a group of defenders that replaced Rhett Bernstein '09, Stephen Sawyer '09 and the injured Ian Smith '11.
Ryan McDuff '13, Renick and Coleman "are doing what's asked of them, and their play has been fantastic," Walls said. "After losing so many quality players, the younger ones have come in and played well. For the first five games of the season, we can't expect too much more out of them."
Grandstrand left Saturday night's game in the final 25 minutes, as Jarrod Schlenker '10 finished out the game in the net.
Both sides of the ball have elevated their level of play and have continued to respond well to pressure situations, carrying themselves with a confidence far beyond their years.
There are no stand-out players on the team this year, so the team does not have to rely on any one player to score all of the goals or make all the big plays. The scoring has been so well-rounded that the team has received offensive contributions from 10 different players, tallying a total of 28 points to their opponents' four.
"We are a very fresh team," Walls said. "There is only a small margin from the weakest player to the strongest player. Everyone on the bench can step up at a moment's notice and produce out on the field for the team. We've spread it around this year — we're in a nice position as a number of people are confident to score goals."
The game was featured as a Grassroot Soccer HIV/AIDS fundraising event where admission to the game was free with a donation. The event raised $2,000.
The Bears will look to continue their all-around team effort into a trip to California this weekend as they take on UC Santa Clara (2-4-0) and UC San Francisco (2-3-0). Santa Clara is coming off of two tough losses against solid programs in the Pac-10, No. 5 California and Stanford.
"Each game gets tougher and tougher," Walls said. "It's great to have the chance to go against some of the best teams in the country. We're happy with where we're at and the way we've been playing, but we're not happy with just a little bit of success — we want more."
The Bears return to Providence for a bout with No. 19 Boston University next Wednesday at 7 p.m. before opening up Ivy League play at Columbia Oct. 3.