No. 1 ETSU 5, No. 4 UNCG 2
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Joao Ramalho and Cameron Woodfin had a goal and an assist each as No. 1 seed ETSU dropped No. 4 seed UNCG 5-2 in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship at the UNCG Soccer Stadium on Thursday.
The Bucs (12-4-2) advance to Saturday’s title match, where they will face either No. 2 seed Mercer or No. 3 seed Wofford. Those squads play in Thursday’s other semifinal at 6 p.m. ETSU, which is in the championship match for the second straight year, is seeking its first title.
ETSU got on the board early in both halves to set the tone. Just moments into the game, Ramalho ran onto a perfect through ball from Fletcher Ekern, pulling UNCG keeper Logan Rohde off his line and slotting it home with just 3:53 off the game clock. The goal was Ramalho’s fifth of the season.
Minutes later, Eric Gunnarsson got off a close-range header off a UNCG throw-in, but ETSU keeper Jonny Sutherland made the reaction save just feet away. Alexander Lewis pounced on the rebound, but his shot sailed high.
The Bucs quickly squelched any momentum, however, as Mitchell Cecatiello dribbled into the box and sent a low liner under Rohde to double the lead in the 13th minute. The goal was his first of the season.
ETSU had a solid chance to add on in the 35th minute, as Jeffrey George fired a line drive from the corner of the box that Rohde knocked out of bounds with a diving save. George was fouled on the play, and Charlie Machell’s free kick went off the post and out of bounds.
UNCG (11-7-2) nearly got on the board at the end of the first half, as Damieon Thomas took a close-range shot that went off a defender and hit the left post. The Spartans were awarded a corner kick on the play but came up empty.
After a quick strike to open the game, the Bucs drew blood early in the second half, as well, as Serge Gomis made it a 3-0 game in the 49th minute. Ramalho picked up the ball in the midfield and dribbled down to the touchline, playing a ball back in front of the goal. A UNCG defender deflected it into the path of Gomis, who one-timed a ball from the top of the box that found the lower left corner of the net for the three-goal spread.
The Spartans would continue to generate offensive chances but couldn’t convert. In the 54th minute, UNCG got off a pair of looks, but Sutherland was there to turn away Matteo Busio’s free kick and Faisal Almubaslat’s point-blank follow in quick succession.
ETSU made it a 4-0 affair in the 57th minute, when Cameron Woodfin’s shot hit the crossbar and Javier Alberto knocked in the rebound.
The Spartans finally got on the board at the 28:05 mark, when Gunnarsson scored on a penalty kick after Casey Penland was taken down in the box.
Woodfin added on in the 71st minute, scoring an unassisted goal on a breakaway, but UNCG got the goal back with less than six minutes remaining in the contest, when Ethan Wells smoked a line drive top shelf from just inside the 18.
With a 21-13 advantage in shots and a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks, UNCG dominated the box score but suffered its worst loss of the season. The Spartans’ previous six losses were each by one goal.
No. 2 Mercer 2, No. 3 Wofford 0
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Kobe Perez scored a pair of goals off the bench to lead No. 2 seed Mercer past No. 3 seed Wofford, 2-0, in Thursday’s second semifinal of the Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship at the UNCG Soccer Stadium. The Bears will face top-seeded ETSU in Saturday’s title match.
Saturday’s championship match will commence at 5 p.m. and air live on ESPN3. Pete Yanity will provide play-by-play, with Charlie Slagle serving as analyst.
Mercer (13-6-0) will be making its second title-match appearance and first since 2014, its first year in the league. It will face a Bucs squad that is in the championship game for the second straight year. Both sides are seeking their first SoCon tournament titles.
Perez scored an unassisted goal in each half for the Bears. Late in the first period, Trenton Whitely swung a corner kick into the box, but a Wofford defender headed it away. Perez was there for the follow-up header, arcing it just under the crossbar for the lead in the 43rd minute.
The sophomore from Dalton, Georgia, doubled the lead in the 59th minute, taking advantage of another failed Wofford clearance. Terrier keeper Joe Wichmann was the victim of an in-between bounce of the ball, as he had to exit the 18-yard box and quickly head the ball out of the path on an oncoming Mercer attacker. The ball landed right at the feet of Perez, who took a touch and lobbed a shot 35 yards into the open net.
The Bears’ defense – headlined by Ian Antley, Conner Antley, Airrion Blackstock and Whitely – did the rest, limiting Wofford (12-7-0) to just three shots on the evening, only one of which was on goal. Mercer also boasted a 7-0 advantage in corner kicks.
Wofford’s lone shot on goal came in the first half, when Connor Donohue forced a Jeremy Booth save in the 17th minute.
Booth was credited with his fifth shutout of the season.
Wichmann, who faced 13 shots on the night, made three saves in the losing effort.
Saturday’s title match will be the third meeting of the year between ETSU and Mercer, with the Bucs winning the previous two. The squads faced off on the final day of the regular season with the SoCon regular-season title on the line, with ETSU scoring twice in the last 14 minutes to take the win and the title.
2016 SoCon Men’s Soccer Championship
Quarterfinal Round, Saturday, Nov. 5
Campus sites (at higher seeds)
Match 1: No. 4 UNCG 1, No. 5 Furman 0
Match 2: No. 3 Wofford 3, No. 6 VMI 1
Semifinals, Thursday, Nov. 10
Match 3: No. 1 ETSU 5, No. 4 UNCG 2
Match 4: No. 2 Mercer 2, No. 3 Wofford 0
Championship, Saturday, Nov. 12
Match 5: No. 1 ETSU vs. No. 2 Mercer, 5 p.m. (ESPN3)