GREENVILLE, S.C. – The No. 2 seed UNCG men’s soccer team (10-7-2) defeated No. 3 seed and host Furman 3-2 (12-5-3) in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament Semifinals on Friday night at Stone Soccer Stadium. The Spartans scored the game’s first three goals and withstood a late comeback attempt by the Paladins in the last 16 minutes of regulation.
UNCG advances to the finals on Sunday and will face No. 4 seed Mercer, who defeated No. 1 seed ETSU 0-0 (4-3), at 1:00 p.m. on an ESPN3 broadcast. The Spartans will attempt to win their sixth SoCon Championship in program history with the last title coming in 2010.
“This was a typical UNCG-Furman great game,” said UNCG head coach Justin Maullin. “These type of games have gone on for years. It’s a good, healthy rivalry and I didn’t expect anything less. I was just hoping we could get the 3-0 lead down to less 10 minutes left. I felt good about that happening but obviously they got one before that and could of tied it up at the end.”
Cyril Owolabi (Manchester, England) scored the first goal of the game in the 28th minute. Nelson Oceano (Berlin, Germany/Sportschule Olympiapark) lofted a pass into the box, and Owolabi chipped it past a Furman defender where he slipped the ball in between the goalkeepers’ legs from the left side of the box for his second goal of the season.
Matt Mattis (Little Stoke, England/St. Bede's Catholic) added to UNCG’s lead not even a minute into the second half. Leeroy Maguraushe (Milton Keynes, England/Stantonbury) launched a deep pass down the left side where Mattis raced past the defense and scored off a shot just inside the left side of the box over the goalkeeper.
Mattis registered his second goal of the game and sixth of the season in the 59th minute. Off a free kick by Austin Matthews (New Kent, Va./West Point) the ball bounced off a Furman defender right to Mattis, who booted it from just outside the box into the right side of the net.
“We weren’t going to sit back and let them come to us,” said Maullin. “We were going to press them, and I think the pressure really benefited us. Matt Mattis was just excellent tonight."
Furman’s Emery May headed a ball into the net off a pass from Danny Kierath in the 75th minute to get Furman on the board. Kyle McLagan then cut the Paladins’ deficit to one off a goal inside the box off a cross from the left corner that went through two UNCG defenders
UNCG held off Furman’s comeback attempt in the last six minutes for the win. The Paladins almost tied it up with a minute left, but a handball occurred right before a shot was put into the net.
Jon Milligan (Mount Pleasant, S.C./Wando) picked up his 10th win of the year. While recording just two saves, Milligan corralled several loose balls in the box in the second half after UNCG went up 3-0.
Furman finished with a 15-8 shot and 12-3 corner kick advantage due to its late rally and defensive approach by UNCG to hold onto its lead. The Spartans had two more shots (5-3) in the first half with the Paladins having the only corner kick in the half. Both teams had five shots on goal in the game.
“The next 24 hours are just about getting our bodies back,” said Maullin. “This game was a battle, and Mercer has a little bit more rest than us even though it went to overtime in its game. We’ll start to look at tactics tomorrow night. We know Mercer well having played them twice, so we’ll be ready.”
-- UNCG --