The University of Richmond men's soccer team opens conference play this weekend as it tries to advance to the conference tournament for the first time since 2006.
The Spiders (3-6) start the Atlantic-10 portion of the schedule with four-consecutive away games. They travel to face the University of Saint Louis (5-4) on Oct. 9 and then face the league's top team, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (7-1-1), on Oct. 11. The Spiders' conference home opener is Oct. 23 against the University of Dayton (5-3-1).
The large amount of travel is a disadvantage, but the team can gain valuable experience playing in hostile environments, coach Clint Peay said.
"We will use a lot of bodies to try to limit the workload and hopefully we will get into games where we do not have a lot of overtimes," he said.
The Spiders have played only two matches at home so far this season.
"The advantage to playing on the road sometimes is that the distractions are eliminated because you are together as a group," Peay said. "You can control their preparation a little bit."
With a lot of away games on the schedule, the team's younger players have gotten valuable experience adjusting to foreign environments, he said.
"They have seen some good teams, good players," he said. "So now when they go into a place like Charlotte, things do not rattle them as much anymore."
Peay, who is in his first season as Richmond's head coach, said the experience had been a positive one.
"I think we have been very competitive in all our games, except the [College of] William and Mary game, and those days happen," Peay said. "I think we have beaten the teams we should have beaten. We are competitive. We are creating chances. We are scoring goals. We are getting wins against the teams we feel like we should beat."
The team needs to improve communication on defense and early play recognition, Peay said.
"Going into the season, we felt that defending would have to define us," he said. "We have to stay in games. We are not a team that can go out and score four goals a match. If there is an area of disappointment so far is that we have conceded more goals than we would have liked."
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The team has had lapses in concentration on defense that have led to some easy goals for opponents, senior midfielder Kern Gardiner said.
"Teams are able to get in behind [us] and score goals," he said. Many of the goals are created by Richmond turnovers in their defensive end of the field, he said.
The players will continue to improve and learn from their mistakes, Peay said.
"Although they give up goals, they learn a little bit every day about themselves as a team," he said. "It helps us for conference play and at making a run to be in the conference tournament."
Contact staff writer Stephen Utz at email@example.com
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