GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s soccer team opened Southern Conference play Tuesday night with a hard fought 0-0 tie against No. 15 Furman at the UNCG Soccer Stadium. The Spartans out-shot the Paladins 17-16, including 6-1 in the two overtime periods as they controlled play for most of the game. The tie runs the Spartans unbeaten streak against Furman to seven straight games as they have gone 6-0-1 since 2008 in the series.
“It was another classic UNCG-Furman game,” head coach Justin Maullin said. “These are always great games and this has turned into a fantastic rivalry. I was proud of our guys tonight. We defended well and created some quality chances, but were just not able to finish in the final third. We need to be a little more polished in the final third, but the take away from this game is we are getting those quality chances and if we continue to work hard, we will begin capitalize on those chances.”
The Spartans (5-5-2) had the first chance of the game just five minutes in as senior Oddur Gudmundsson (Reykjavik, Iceland/Breidholti) sent a long ball behind the Furman back line. Senior forward Brian Graham (Bowie, Md./Bowie) was in behind the defense and got to the ball before the on-charging goalkeeper Sven Lissek. Graham got a touch on the ball and flick it over Lissek, but it rolled just wide of the post.
The two teams battled back and forth for most of the first half with the Spartans holding possession for a majority of the time, but neither team had another dangerous scoring chance. UNCG saw the next prime chance come in the 55th minute of action as sophomore Noah DeAngelo (Burlington, N.C./Bishop McGuiness) made a run down the left side. DeAngelo made a quick move to get past the Paladin defender and sent a hard cross into the box. Sophomore Lukas Zarges (Freidrichsdorf, Germany/Phillip Reis Schulle) got to the spot before Lissek and got his head on the ball only to see his shot roll just wide of the far post.
The Spartans continued to get the lion’s share of chances as junior forward Austin Miller (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) sent a rocket of a shot over the cross bar in the 71st minute to keep the game scoreless.
Furman (7-1-2), which ran its unbeaten streak on the year to eight games, had its first dangerous chance in the 75th minute as the Paladins made a push during a 15-minute stretch in the second half. Furman had a long throw-in deep in the Spartan territory, but UNCG was able to clear the initial chance out of the 18-yard box. Josh Fusan corralled the clear 20-yards out and ripped a shot on goal through traffic that redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Stephen Moffitt (Burlington, N.C./Williams) was perfectly placed for and smothered to keep the game tied at 0-0.
The Paladins had another chance in the 85th minute off a corner kick. The Spartans cleared the corner kick out of the six-yard box but Michael Gandier got a second shot off from 15 yards out in a scramble only to see freshman defender Hugo Coicaud (Le Harve, France/Saint-Joseph) clear it off the end line for the pivotal team save.
The Spartans and Paladins closed out regulation knotted after 90 minutes leading to extra time. UNCG dominated play in the two overtime periods, out-shooting Furman 6-1 in the extra 20 minutes, including 4-0 in the second overtime.
Early in the first overtime, Miller was pulled down just outside the 18-yard box giving the Spartans a set piece. Zarges stepped up to the ball and sent a left-footed shot that skipped off the Furman wall and wide for the top scoring chance of the first overtime.
UNCG turned up the pressure in the second overtime as Furman never threatened in the final 10 minutes, playing on its heels looking to go home with a tie. In the 102nd minute, Miller got the ball on the left side of the 18-yard box and after a series of moves, weaved his way past three Furman defenders and struck a tough-angle shot from 12 yards out that grazed off the cross bar and out of play.
The Spartans kept the pressure on in the final minutes and were rewarded with dangerous chances down the stretch. After a corner kick was cleared by Furman to midfield in the 106th minute, junior Justin Jones (Jamestown, N.C./Lees-McRae) kept the play alive as he served the ball back into the 18-yard box. Senior Mahdi Ali (Helsinki, Finland/Vuosaaren Lukio) flicked the ball through the box to the back post to Gudmundsson who saw his one-touch volley sail just wide of the post.
UNCG had its final chance in the 109th minute of play as Furman committed another foul giving the Spartans a free kick from 22 yards out. Both Zarges and Graham lined up over the ball and Graham called his number sending a bending ball through traffic but skipping just wide of the far post to seal the scoreless tie.
Moffitt tallied two saves in his sixth shutout of the season and was also the beneficiary of a crucial team save in the second half. Lissek came up with three saves in the shutout for the Paladins who move to 0-0-2 in SoCon play.
The Spartans return to action Saturday night as they travel to Boone, N.C., for a SoCon meeting against Appalachian State. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.