Late goal lifts Spartans to SoCon regular season title
ELON, N.C.—Cameron Owens scored the only goal of the match in the 82nd minute, lifting UNCG to a 1-0 win over Elon and the outright Southern Conference regular-season title, Saturday at Rudd Field.
Owens scored from 18 yards out, going just inside the far right post off an assist by fellow freshman Austin Miller. It was Owens' first goal of the season and it gave the Spartans (8-7-1 overall, 5-1-1 SoCon) their seventh SoCon regular-season title. The victory also extends UNCG's winning streak to a season-best three matches.
"We were talking before the match as a staff that we've won quite a few titles in our time as both coaches and players," said head coach Justin Maullin. "But for me this is the best of them all. We've overcome a lot adversity and injuries, and players have stepped up and stepped forward. It's a great feeling for us tonight."
UNCG entered Saturday's match with a simple task on paper: win and take the SoCon title. But, in reality, it wasn't quite that simple. The Spartans had lost three straight matches to the Phoenix (6-10-1, 2-5-0) since 2008, and hadn't won at Rudd Field in eight years. Still, UNCG managed to find a way to earn the victory.
"I have the utmost respect for Elon, their coaches and their program, said Maullin. "So to go there and win for the first time since 2003 and win a title on top of that is extra special."
Owens' goal was the only one of UNCG's five shots to be on goal.
"You have to have talent to win a championship but you've also got to be lucky at times," said Maullin. "Last year we needed some results to go our way down the stretch or we wouldn't have finished on top. Tonight we held our fate in our own hands and we came through. I'm extra happy for Cam because during the recruiting process his final two schools were us and Elon. So that makes it extra special."
Once again, junior goalkeeper Peyton Ford directed another stellar defensive effort as the Spartans avoided any damage from Elon's 12 shots. Ford made four saves in recording his fifth straight shutout and his seventh of the season. In seven SoCon matches, Ford allowed just one goal.
"As good as Peyton has been over the last month or so – and he's been very good -- I'm sure he would agree that the guys in front of him deserve as much credit as he does, "said Maullin. "Mahdi Ali and Jonathan Leonard have bonded as a tandem as conference play has gone along. Our two fifth-year seniors Will Mack and Kris Byrd have also been outstanding."
The Spartans close out the regular season when they host UNC Wilmington, 7 p.m., Tuesdayat UNCG Soccer Stadium. Seniors Kris Byrd and Will Mack will be honored in pregame festivities on Senior Night.
UNCG vs ELON (Oct 28, 2011 at Elon, N.C.)
UNCG (8-7-1, 5-1-1) vs. ELON (6-10-1, 2-5-0)
Date: Oct 28, 2011 Attendance: 314
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
UNCG................ 0 1 - 1
ELON................ 0 0 - 0
1. 81:05 UNCG Cameron Owens (1) (Austin Miller) - Shot from about 18 yards out to far right post
Shots: UNCG 5, ELON 12
Saves: UNCG 4 (Peyton Ford 4), ELON 0 ()