For the first time in nearly 40 years, Rhode Island Men’s Soccer faced off against the Stonehill Skyhawks in a non conference matchup. Coming off a scoreless draw against the reigning MAAC Champions Quinnipiac, the Rams looked poised to open their home record with a win, and win they did. With three first-career goal scorers, Rhode Island put on a show in the first home match of the 2023 season, comfortably dispatching Stonehill 3-0 at the URI Soccer Complex.
The Rams set the tone early Sunday in front of a boisterous Kingston crowd of nearly 500 people. Senior forward Rafa Villanueva kickstarted the wave of Rhode Island offense and was unlucky not to manage a goal, firing numerous shots goal-ward, including one effort cleared off the line.
The only goal of the first half came in the 28th minute courtesy of junior forward Íñigo Etxegarai. Finding space just inside the box, the Spaniard curled an effort into the top right corner, leaving Stonehill’s Ryan Coutu rooted to the ground. The strike was the first of Etxegarai’s collegiate career, having joined the Rams from the Real Sociedad academy earlier this summer.
Following the halftime break, Rhode Island continued to dominate the ball, pressing Stonehill high up the field. The visiting Skyhawks had the opportunity to tie the match in the 57th minute, but failed to capitalize on a two-on-one counterattack thanks to a diving stop from Nate DiLoreto.
The high press and continued dominance in attack paved the way for the Rams’ second goal, a 68th-minute smash-and-grab effort from freshman defender Nate Yurkovic. That too was the defender’s first career goal for Rhode Island, who was mobbed by the Rams’ bench to celebrate.
Keeping the foot on the gas, Rhode Island’s intensity didn’t waver for the remainder of the match, giving Coutu a hard time until the final whistle. The Rams added a third goal in the 78th minute, as midfielder Michael Hofstetter stepped up and executed a penalty with poise and conviction. For the third time that afternoon, the Rams had another first-career goal-scorer.
In another first, Rhode Island goalkeeper Nate DiLoreto received his first career start, slotting into the starting xi in place of the suspended Edu Rodriguez. Making four saves, the Bristol native recorded the first 90-minute clean sheet of his Rams’ career since transferring from Hartford.
When all was said and done, Gareth Elliot’s men came away with an emphatic non-conference victory to keep the Rams’ undefeated start going. Rhode Island’s next test is an away matchup against Ivy League opponent Harvard in Cambridge on Friday, September 1st. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. and will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Rhode Island: 18 Shots, 6 On Target, 4 Saves, 6 Corners, 15 Fouls
Stonehill: 6 Shots, 4 On Target, 3 Saves, 4 Corners, 13 Fouls
Referee: William Ferris
Assistant Referee: Eric Schreiber
Assistant Referee: Omar Roa