South Carolina 1, Mercer 0
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A late first-half goal by host South Carolina was enough to vault the Gamecocks past Mercer, 1-0, in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship on Thursday afternoon at Stone Stadium.
South Carolina (11-7-1) scored the lone goal on its first shot attempt of the match when Kevin Walker put the ball past Jeremy Booth in the 39th minute. Mercer outshot the Gamecocks, 9-5, and had five shots on goal to their two – both of which came in the first half.
The loss eliminates Mercer (13-7-1) from the NCAA tournament after an impressive season that included winning the Southern Conference Championship and earning an automatic bid to the program’s first NCAA tournament since 2001. Mercer is now 0-3 all-time in the NCAA tournament, having been outscored 5-0 overall.
South Carolina advances to the second round and will face No. 3 national seed Clemson (12-3-5) on Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Tigers’ Historic Riggs Stadium.
Mercer outshot USC, 5-2, in the opening half and had its best scoring opportunity on a beautiful strike by Southern Conference Player of the Year Will Bagrou in the 34th minute. Bagrou beat a defender into the box to fire off a shot that was saved by USC’s William Pyle.
A slow start to the second half picked up when Airrion Blackstock narrowly missed a goal in the 58th minute as he chipped the ball into the box and forced Pyle to make his third save of the match. Two yellow cards – one for USC’s Trygve Ellingstad and one for Bagrou – were issued in the 60th minute, adding to the building tension at Stone Stadium.
It was Bagrou again, in the 72nd minute, with Mercer’s best opportunity of the second half. The junior corralled a pass into the box and had Pyle beat; however, South Carolina’s back line was there for the team save on Bagrou’s shot. Mercer would unload another pair of shots by Trenton Whitely and Jake Mezei, but neither could even the match. All three of South Carolina’s shots in the second half were off target.
Virginia Tech 1, ETSU 0
BLACKSBURG, Va. – The ETSU soccer team dominated the second half, but the Bucs fell 1-0 to Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday night.
ETSU finishes its historic season at 12-5-3. In a season of firsts, the Bucs were able to claim their first-ever regular season title, defeat then-No. 1 North Carolina and receive their first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, among many more accomplishments.
In the 20th minute, the Hokies worked up the right side and into the attacking third. After flicking a pass forward and into the right side of the ETSU box, a Hokie took a shot on goal. However, sophomore goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland made a dive to his right to keep the game level.
Just eight minutes later, Virginia Tech was awarded a corner kick after the Blue and Gold defended a strong Virginia Tech attack. From the right corner flag, the Hokies curled a ball to the back post. As a sub, Nico Quashie came into the box, unmarked, and put a head on the ball and knocked it into the left side of the net to take the 1-0 advantage.
At the 34th minute, the Bucs were awarded a free kick in their attacking half after Virginia Tech was called for the foul. ETSU was able to put two shots toward the Virginia Tech net, but neither found the net.
Another chance occurred for ETSU in the 43rd minute as junior forward Fletcher Ekern knocked a line drive pass to Charles Blankenship, who came off the bench just several minutes before. Blankenship tried to beat the Virginia Tech goalkeeper to the ball, but the Hokie keeper covered it up before the Memphis, Tennessee, native could put a foot on it.
Going into the half, ETSU was down 1-0 and was being outshot 8-2. Not getting as much pressure as the Bucs would like, ETSU went into the locker room and changed strategies by putting two strikers up top. The small change worked for the Blue and Gold as it was able to rifle off eight shots in the second half, with two on goal.
A chance came early in the second stanza for ETSU as it was awarded its first corner of the match. Joao Ramalho took the set-piece opportunity and laid it into the box. Mitchell Cecatiello put a head on the ball, but the attempt went right of frame.
In the 62nd minute, the Bucs worked off a counter attack. Cecatiello took control of the ball and tried to fling the ball down field to Javier Alberto. A Hokie defender jumped the pass and intercepted the ball to end the threat.
In a span of seven minutes, ETSU fired off four shots, including one on frame by Alberto.
For the final 15 minutes, Virginia Tech was able to maintain most of the possession and fend off the Buccaneer attack in the final minutes.
With the 1-0 win, Virginia Tech goes on to the second round and will travel to face Charlotte on Sunday, Nov. 20.