GREENSBORO, N.C. - UNCG men's soccer moves to the top of the Southern Conference standings this Saturday, defeating visiting Wofford by a final of 3-0 on homecoming night. The Spartans 3-0-0 start to the 2019 SoCon campaign is their best since 2005, where the side reached the third round of the NCAA Championship tournament.
"That's huge," said Head Coach Chris Rich after the match. "It's huge for us to be 3-0, and being three games in with nine points is fantastic. We were great tonight, we were very good. We scored a couple good set piece goals as well, which is fantastic. Wofford is a pretty good team. They play a very good brand of soccer that I have respect for. I respect how they play. I think that the way we defended, the way we pressed and the way we counter pressed, we earned and deserved a lot of chances because of that. Overall it was a fantastic result, and we're very happy to be the top of the table right now."
Senior captain and defender Casey Penland delivered a brace against the visiting Terriers to put himself in a tie with forwards Albert Pedra and Micah Albert for a team-high at five on the year. The High Point product opened his scoring on the evening during the 11th minute, when a corner delivery from Nelson Oceano found the head of Penland, who cleared his mark to deliver a shot straight down into the center of the frame.
Penland's night wouldn't be finished however, doubling his team's advantage on yet another corner opportunity in the 54th. With Ethan Conley delivering the cross, Payne McKiver found space inside the 18, but saw his headed ball strike the crossbar. Penland followed up his teammate's attempt with a header of his own, which at first look appeared to be cleared off the goalline by the Wofford defense, but was ruled a good goal by the line judge to make it 2-0.
The senior did his duty on the defensive end as well, making multiple blocks for the Spartans at the goalline to help secure his team's second clean sheet in conference play.
"Casey Penland is fantastic," said Rich. "I've said it before at the beginning of the season, 'that kid is going to be a pro.' He's a leader on our team from a performance standpoint and also from a vocal standpoint. He's been huge. He's one of our leading goal scorers now, and as a center back to be one of our leading scorers is impressive. On set pieces, he's an animal, it's very difficult to stop him and he's a threat every single game. Early on, in the last few games, I thought we should have been scoring more, and we just haven't been sharp enough in those moments, but now they're starting to go our way a little bit. Defensively, I love the goals, but the way that he defended, and the way that we defended collectively from the front to the back to get a clean sheet was huge for us. I've said it before, if we get clean sheets we're going to be successful."
With Wofford attempting to cut into the home team's lead, counter attacking opportunities presented themselves for the Spartans, who capitalized on a chance in the 79th. Freshman Mylo Hall chested down a pass inside the 18 before delivering a low driven cross in front of goal, which was finished off by a streaking Cameron Fowler to put UNCG's advantage at three goals. The Spartans would keep the Terriers quiet throughout the final 10 minutes of the match to hold on to the 3-0 win, with freshman keeper Brendan Pulley registering his team's third shutout of the season.
Three Things To Know
-- In addition to making five blocks on the afternoon, the Spartan defense allowed just a single Wofford shot to reach frame on the night
-- The Spartans outshot the Terriers 18-7 over 90 minutes of play, while taking 10 corner kicks to the visitors' four
-- Hall's helper was the freshman's second of the 2019 campaign, while Payne McKiver's assist was the third of the junior's career
COMING UP NEXT
The Spartans face their final two road challenges of the 2019 regular season, with back-to-back matches against Furman and ETSU next week. UNCG is 20-17-4 against the Paladins all-time, while holding a 4-6-5 record against the Bucs.
-- UNCG –