BOILING SPRINGS N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - No. 1 Coastal Carolina knocked off No. 8 UNC Asheville 2-0 in the second game of the 2011 Big South Men's Soccer Championship Thursday at Greene-Harbison Field on the campus of Gardner-Webb University.
The 2011 Big South Conference Tournament saw its second consecutive scoreless first half, as defense is at a premium thus far in tournament play. Coastal Carolina threatened to score early behind the feet of Big South Attacking Player of the Year Ashton Bennett as the Chanticleers earned two shots on goal in the opening minutes of play. The Bulldog defense held in the early going led by stellar play from Second Team All-Conference goalkeeper Lassi Hurskainen, who recorded 6 saves in the first half. Bennett threatened to break through in the 17th minute off a pass from First Team-All Conference defender Pedro Ribeiro for the Chanticleers, but Bulldog defender Quentin Reynolds denied the CCU forward a shot attempt and the score remained 0-0.
The Big South regular season champion Chanticleers nearly broke through in the 23rd minute when a cross from Leo Mukofsky landed in front of the goal, but was not received by a CCU teammate and the ball was picked up by Hurskainen. Mufosky found open room in the Bulldogs' defensive third in the 24th minute, but his shot went high.
The Bulldogs got a good offensive look in the 27th minute as Kenneth Lingerfelt maneuvered his way into the Chanticleers defensive backfield, but First Team All-Conference defender Cyprian Hedrick was able to stop the Bulldog attack. The score remained 0-0 after a Chanticleer counter won them a free kick and Ribeiro's shot was stopped by Asheville's Hurskainen.
Asheville got a good look at a goal on a header from midfielder Kye Grooms, but it went off frame. Asheville, despite being outshot 11-1 in the first half, was able to stay in the game and keep the Chanticleers off the scoreboard thanks to a strong defensive effort.
Bennett got a shot off in the 35th minute, but it was blocked to give the Chanticleers a corner kick. CCU continued to attack on a breakaway from Robby Joe Daniels in the 38th minute, but a diving save out of goal by Hurskainen kept the match scoreless.
Coastal Carolina earned its third corner kick of the match in the 43rd minute, but the attempt sent by Justin Portillo did not make it through. After a shot from Mukofsky was blocked in the 45th minute, another corner kick by Portillo was unable to find a Chanticleer on the other end and the score stayed at 0-0 at the end of the first period.
The Chanticleers blazed out of the gate early in the second half, scoring in the 47th minute on an opportune goal by All-Freshman Team member Henrick Robstad to put Coastal Carolina on top 1-0. Robstad's first goal of the season came on an assist from fellow freshman Adam Schmoker to provide the Chanticleers the first goal of the match.
After getting the first official goal of the tournament, the Chanticleers continued to press for the all-important second goal. The Bulldog defense, led by Hurskainen and Reynolds, kept Coastal Carolina from increasing its lead further.
Asheville nearly countered in the 64th minute when Branden Lassen fired a shot on goal, but the first test on Chanticleer goalkeeper Scott Angevine did not find the back of the net after a diving save deflected off the post and the score remained 1-0 in favor of Coastal Carolina.
After the Chanticleers earned a corner kick in the 65th minute, an attempt by the Bulldogs to clear the ball resulted in own goal to increase Coastal Carolina's lead to 2-0.
Despite the fact that Coastal Carolina largely maintained possession, counterattack runs by Asheville's Bryan George as well as Lingerfelt threatened the Chanticleers' lead. The Bulldogs' efforts were denied by a stingy Chanticleer defense. The Chanticleers held a 24-3 shot advantage for the game.
Coastal Carolina improves to 10-0-0 on the year, while Asheville ends its season at 4-12-3. The No. 1 Chanticleers, which defeated Liberty 3-1 in the regular-season, will move on to face the No. 4 Flames in the Conference tournament semifinal round, to be played Friday at 4:00 pm.
Coastal Carolina Head Coach Shaun Docking
"I'll tell you, Asheville's got a great team. They are well-coached, and it was a difficult game for us. I hate playing against Matt (Asheville coach Matt Kern), and I mean that as a high complement to both Matt and his players. We're used to scoring more goals than we did, but we fought through and we are fortunate enough to win today."
UNC Asheville Head Coach Matt Kern
"We felt like a 3-5-1 record was a fair representation of our season in conference, but it's a difficult challenge to play Coastal in the first round. They are very difficult to defend and scored a great goal five minutes into the second half. We got great goalkeeping in the first half, and overall I'm proud of our effort."