GREENSBORO, N.C. - UNCG men's soccer dealt out a dominant victory over visiting Old Dominion to finish off the 2019 regular season this Saturday, dropping the Monarchs by a final count of 3-1. The Spartans controlled pace of play throughout the evening's 90 minutes, but would find themselves behind by a single goal, before three goals in just over three minutes from winger Albert Pedra gave the home side the win.
It would be a fitting end to Pedra's final regular season matchup inside UNCG Soccer Stadium, with the home crowd honoring the Spaniard in their team's annual senior night, along with goalkeeper Connor Cochrane, winger Faisal Almubaslat and defenders Casey Penland, Aidan Wixted and Tevyn Henry.
"The truth is that, on senior night today, it was special to get a win and to score three goals, but the biggest part was the work of the team and the coaching staff, and I'm very proud of them," said Pedra after the match.
"It's a great group of six kids," said Head Coach Chris Rich. "I think there's four that have been here for all four years and two that have transferred in for one year, and all six of them are fantastic people in our program. They're very good players and they've all been through a lot. And we've been through a lot this season as well. They've helped me, helped the staff and helped the program stay focused and kept the group together so that we could have the run that we're having now. I couldn't be any happier for them, and we have so much more to play, and those guys have so much more to play, so I can't wait."
Despite standing as the heavy favorites in possession, the Spartans found themselves behind the eight-ball in the 53rd minute after Old Dominion was the first to break the scoreless tie. The home team were able to keep their nerves however, and came roaring back with the equalizer in the 80th, before adding another pair in the prevailing three minutes.
"We were in control," said Rich. "I thought we were building well, we were just a little careless in possession at times and every time we turned the ball over, it seemed like ODU was taking advantage of transitional moments. They hurt us on the goal, but we didn't panic. Everyone stayed calm and stuck to the game plan, and that may have been the biggest key to us coming back with those three goals."
Pedra delivered his sixth goal of the year on a deflected cross from Matthew Cutler, before adding his second of the night a little over a minute and 20 seconds later. Working on the counter, Cutler again orchestrated the attack sending a through ball behind the Monarch defense to put Micah Albert in on the goalkeeper. The striker's possession was too tight on the ODU keeper however, deciding to take the ball wide of the netminder before sending in a cross that was finished by Pedra.
With Old Dominion desperate to find a late equalizer, the Spartans once again found space in the attacking third. Pedra managed to break free unmarked up the right side of the field with the Monarch's left full back caught hanging up top, receiving a pass from Albert to complete the hat trick on a one-on-one opportunity with the keeper.
Finishing the night with a 3-1 win, the Spartans move to 8-8-1 on the year and extend their winning streak at UNCG Soccer Stadium to four straight. With Furman's victory over Belmont to close the SoCon season, the Spartans retain a piece of this year's regular season conference championship, and will enter the postseason tournament as a No. 2 seed.
Three Things To Know
-- Pedra's three-goal effort gives him a team-high of eight on the year, his hat trick is the first the Spartans have had since Damieon Thomas notched a hat trick against Presbyterian on September 14, 2016
-- Cutler and Albert each finished with a pair of assists on the night, bringing the former to five helpers on the season
-- Freshman keeper Brendan Pulley recorded four stops on the night, he's allowed just three goals in UNCG's last seven matches of the regular season, and hasn't surrendered multiple tallies since September 21st
COMING UP NEXT
The Spartans will wait to find out their semifinals opponent in this year's Southern Conference Championship tournament after clinching the No. 2 seed. The club will play the winner of No. 3 ETSU's matchup with No. 6 Belmont/No. 7 VMI at home next Sunday at 6 p.m. inside UNCG Soccer Stadium.
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