It began with a mild, fog-mired Saturday morning trip up to Babson College and ended with clear, but chilly, late Sunday afternoon ride back to Providence. Another thrilling weekend in the books. I witnessed my school clinch its very first NCAA Tournament victory. Despite their 0-2 defeat the following day, it did not tarnish their efforts in any way.
Once again, my good friend/good luck charm Mario accompanied me for both matches. The Anchorwomen were there too, and to my delight, feverishly stomped on the metal bleachers for every RIC corner kick.*
(*During the Babson-RIC match, some of the Babson fans behind me were grumbling about this. I mean, c'mon - what do you think metal bleachers were erected for - besides sitting?)
The first match was played under unseasonably mild conditions with a dash of on and off drizzle. It felt like spring rather than fall. In fact, it was perfect day to wear my newly-purchased maroon RIC soccer jersey. Conversely, my buddy Mario wore the opponent's color for the second consecutive match.* Hey, it worked. Again. RIC took the match on PK's, and advanced through to second round vs. Stevens College on Sunday.
(*He wore nearly the same shade of green during that Plymouth State University sported in the LEC Final. Guess who else was wearing green on Saturday, besides Babson? Then...THEN...he just so happens to wear black when RIC played against a black kitted Stevens. I can't get over this silly coincidence.)
Against Stevens, it was an entirely different day, both on and off the pitch. A biting autumn air returned and brought gusty winds along with it as if to make up for the embarrassment of a mid-November day before. Stevens was quick and relentless. They outplayed RIC in nearly every facet. Of course, once Dan Rodrigues was red carded early in the second half, that was pretty much it. Stevens kept its foot on the accelerator and never let up. With only a pair of minutes remaining, the nail in the coffin was hammered through by Nolan Sandberg's second goal of the match. It simply was not to be for RIC.
But throughout the weekend, the Anchormen made great strides. They held their own against a perenial powerhouse Babson, and could've stolen a result from Stevens had they not lost a man. For a team that had played consecutive matches, their form did not deteriorate. They played spirited soccer throughout, rather than the ugly, defensive football so often seen when the stakes are raised. Credit head coach John Mello for that.
Lastly, although I was sad, angry, bitter, and generally inconsolable after the Anchormen's NCAA dreams were frozen in the cold Wellesley air, I take great solace in this one fact: my final game of the 2008 season was a RIC match. Not Brown. Not Providence College. Not the Revolution.*
(*No disrespect at ALL to any of these teams. They are all perenially competitive, and I enjoy watching all of them play.)
It was Rhode Island College. My school.
What did I learn this weekend?
1. In between the 45-minute trips up and down I-95, I realized how proud I am to be a RIC student. In January, I went back to school to begin taking the courses necessary to apply for the English MA program. Little did I know I'd also get an education in school pride along with it.
It stemmed from a combination renewed love for school and my existing passion for soccer. Great professors laid the foundation, and the Anchorwomen and Anchormen sides enhanced it. Because of all of them, professors and players, I have never been more proud to be a student at Rhode Island College.
2. I want to play NCAA soccer next year. Really.