It definitely isn’t real yet, Zac Brown, a goalkeeper for the men’s varsity soccer team said at the last soccer game for the university.
“Even though the university completely turned its back on us, I just can’t imagine this having been the last game for Spider soccer,” he said.
The bleachers were painted red and white by the scarves worn by many fans in the stands that were distributed by the alumni that are spearheading the ‘’Carry The Flag’’ coalition. Supporters of the team chanted, cheered and waved the scarves that bore the writing “Richmond Soccer” on one side and “Carry The Flag” on the other.
“There is a unified student body here, especially with the scarves that we are wearing,” sophomore Mindy Godel said. “It’s really sad to see this team go.”
In an effort to continue reaching out for support to the university community, a press conference was held on Friday afternoon to disclose some information previously unknown to the public. Members of both the Richmond varsity track and field and soccer team were in attendance, as well as other media and members of the community.
“I know there are a lot of people still fighting as hard as they can to keep this program here,” assistant coach Zac Gibbens said.
“Tonight’s attendance for the game was an unbelievable testament to the amount of pride and respect the community has for these student athletes,” he said.
Senior Chris Grover, Richmond’s goalkeeper for the game, which was the team’s Senior Night, described the night as “a Senior Night for everybody.”
The current senior players’ parents, coaches and friends gave speeches honoring the entire team at the family tailgate after the game.
“I just want you all to know how incredibly proud I am of you all and what you have done for this university,” said Peter Albright, head coach for the women’s soccer team, while wiping away tears.
Albright is the father of sophomore, Timmy Albright, a forward who played for the majority of the game on Friday.
“Being able to complete my four years playing for this university has been a dream realized,” Grover said, “but it’s sad to know that once I graduate, I won’t have a program to come back to.”
In a game where tensions are high and especially with our game tonight, the support from our community makes a big difference, he said.
“They are our twelfth man so to speak.”
This team does not sit on the outskirts of the university, Brown said.
“We are not just soccer players, we are students, we play soccer and do many other things for this community,” he said, “and tonight, that community came out to support us.”
The Spiders maintained the lead throughout the majority of the first half, but VCU tied the game, 3-3, early in the second half.
“I think they played really well,” Samantha Cicconi a midfielder on the women’s team, said. “VCU is ranked in the nation, so I think they definitely held their own.”
The Spiders secured the lead within three minutes of the first half with a goal by Mannaan Umar assisted by Oliver Murphy. Eight minutes later, VCU was able to tie the score, but five minutes later, another goal for Richmond by Murphy put the Spiders back in the lead. Richmond’s Nick Butler pushed the lead to two with another goal a few minutes after.
The Rams were able to score one more goal before halftime, bringing the score to 3-2 in favor of Richmond. Ten minutes into the second half, VCU scored another goal, the last of the game for either team, ending the game in a draw after two overtime periods.
“As a goalkeeper, you save people in their most dire times, and not being able to save my team on and off the field is really tough for me,” Brown, who has been injured for most of the season, said. “It’s hard to know my career as a Spider ended on a bench.”
Despite declaring the final word to terminate the program and the reasons for the decision, some outside of the Richmond community still question the motifs of President Ayers and the Board of Trustees.
“This is our first time on campus and seeing the facilities and resources, there is clearly money here,” said Mary Fraser, a family friend of Murphy. “It just doesn’t make any sense. To have to watch Ollie’s soccer career end like this is devastating.”
If the president and the board members had been proud of their decision, they would have been here, on the sidelines, thanking us for our service to the university, Brown said.
“But they are afraid because they know what they did was wrong.”
“Despite everything they have been through this semester, I couldn’t be prouder of what they put out on the field tonight,” Gibbens said. “It is the best possible representation of all the work they do that goes unnoticed throughout the rest of the year.”
Some of the players are still hopeful that the decision will be revoked, but as time passes, they also have begun to think about their futures at the university.
“Timmy couldn’t deal with the idea of transferring during the semester,” Peter Albright said, “but now that the season is over, it is something he will have to consider if he wants to continue playing collegiate soccer.”
“I’m probably going to end up transferring because I have two years of eligibility left,” Brown said, “but this isn’t real yet, and I don’t think it will be until I step onto another college campus.”
Contact reporter Nabila Khouri at firstname.lastname@example.org