DANIEL ISLAND, SC – Some guys have that knack... big games, big plays.
Henning Jonason’s got it.
Jonason, a freshman from Iceland, scored a pair of first-half goals as second-seeded UNC Greensboro defeated No. 1 seed Davidson 2-1 Sunday afternoon at Blackbaud Stadium in the championship game of the Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament. The win gave UNCG its second-ever tournament title in five appearance in the title game and its second-straight trip to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.
The Spartans will be one of 23 teams receiving automatic qualification into the tournament when the pairings are released on Monday. Pairings for the NCAA Tournament field of 48 will be announced on ESPN News shortly after 4 pm on Monday.
The NCAA trip will be UNCG’s 16th all-time and seventh since the program’s elevation to Division I status in 1991. Last year, UNCG advanced the furthest it has since the move to Division I, appearing in the Round of 16. The Spartans’ dreams of a national title were halted in the third round with an overtime loss to eventual runner-up UC Santa Barbara.
“The last time we won it (the SoCon Tournament) was in 1998, so winning this was very important to us,” said Parker, who also collected his 450th win of his illustrious career on Sunday. In his 22 seasons at UNCG, he has compiled 338 of those wins. Overall, he is 450-154-23 in 30 seasons. At UNCG, Parker is now 338-126-16 over 22 seasons as the coach of the Spartans.
“It was something the members of this team dedicated themselves to, certainly in the last part of the season. It meant a lot to us for a couple of reasons. We wanted to win this because we had a couple of things still to prove after the end of the regular season and it was still troubling to a lot of the guys on this club.
“We’re excited about it and we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we get the proper draw in the tournament,” said Parker, the all-time winningest active coach in NCAA Division I.
Earlier this year, Jonason won two matches for UNCG with big goals late in the contest. Against William & Mary, Jonason hooked a free kick into the goal with 35 seconds to play to thwart a Tribe rally and give UNCG a 4-3 win. Last month, Jonason made an improbable run from midfield and scored with just three seconds remaining in the second overtime to give UNCG a win over Furman.
“He is a very versatile player,” said UNCG coach Michael Parker of Jonason, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. “We can play him at left back and we can play him as a forward. It’s a very big strength for us to be able to use him at either position.”
UNCG and Davidson tied atop the Southern Conference regular season standings at 5-1-0, both losing to Elon. The teams played a match in Greensboro on October 7 that was declared a “no contest” one week after it was played by Southern Conference officials. The match, in which UNCG led 4-2, was halted at 66:09 due to poor field conditions. NCAA rules state a match must play 70 minutes to be considered official. Davidson later won a coin toss for the tournament’s top seed, although the teams shared the regular season conference title.
UNCG is the sixth tournament champion in the last seven to have also won at least a share of the regular season title. Last year was the first time that the regular season champion did not win the SoCon Tournament title as Davidson ousted the Spartans in the semifinal round. There was no champion in 2002 as the title game was washed out by heavy rains.
UNCG is now 15-7 all-time in SoCon Tournament competition, having outscored the opposition, 63-27.
The Spartans (15-5-0) wasted little time grabbing an early 1-0 as Jonason put UNCG on the board with a goal in the 14th minute of play. Following a Davidson foul near midfield, sophomore back David Worthen sent a free kick into the Wildcat box where Jonason flicked it past Wildcat keeper Ben Ashton for his sixth goal of the season.
However, Davidson (14-6-1) quickly netted the equalizer. Just over a minute later, Matt Allen scored his ninth goal of the year and third goal of the conference tournament. Allen received a pass inside the Spartan box from Cass Baltz and sent a 15-yard strike past Spartan keeper Jay Benfield to tie the score.
But Jonason put the Spartans back on top. In the 40th minute, he netted his second goal of the contest. The Stokkseyri, Iceland product controlled a loose ball inside the Davidson box and chipped the ball over the leaping Ashton.
Hermann Award candidate Randi Patterson nearly extended the UNCG lead to 3-1 midway through the second half with a pair of well-placed balls. Fellow Hermann Award candidate Scott Jones sent a service from midfield to the feet of Mike Richardson just outside the Wildcat box. Richardson then sent a one-touch ball to the feet of Patterson who fired the ball into the back of the net. The goal went for naught however, as Patterson was deemed offsides by the linesman.
A physical contest for the majority of the second half, the Spartans used their league-leading defense to limit the Wildcats to just six shots in the second half. Davidson flirted with a few scoring opportunities, but Benfield and the Spartan defense prevented the Wildcats from scoring the game-tying goal.
For the contest, UNCG held an 11-10 advantage in shots. Davidson, which will hold out hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, had more corner kicks by a 5-2 count, but could not take advantage.
SCORING SUMMARY: UNCG - Jonason (McCurry), 13:25; DAV - Allen (Baltz) 15:44; UNCG - Jonason (unassisted), 39:39. SHOTS: UNCG 11, Davidson 10. Saves: UNCG 0 (Benfield 0), Davidson 0 (Ashton 0). Corner kicks: UNCG 2, Davidson 5. Fouls: UNCG 15, Davidson 15.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Nahum Navas, Davidson; Marco Antunez, Davidson; Matt Allen, Davidson; Junior Nombre, Elon; Anthony Catalano, Elon; Rhett Abraham, Furman; Shea Salinas, Furman; Jamie Carlson, UNCG; David Worthen, UNCG; Jokull Elisabetarson, UNCG.
MVP: Henning Jonason, UNCG.
- UNCG -