DAVIDSON, NC – UNC Greensboro, the seventh seed in the Southern Conference Men's Soccer Tournament, made the Cinderella slipper fit on Sunday as the Spartans topped College of Charleston, 2-1, to win the conference tournament and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The NCAA tournament selections and pairings will be announced Monday evening in the 6-6:30 pm window on ESPN News. The Spartans (8-11-2) are guaranteed a spot in the field of 48, their 18th trip to the NCAA tournament and ninth as a Division I member. UNCG will be in the field for the fourth time in the last five seasons, but it is the first time in all of those that the Spartans will go in with a sub-.500 record.
"I always felt like if we could put a run together, we could do something in the tournament," said UNCG coach Michael Parker, who picked up career win No. 486 on Sunday. "We always felt like we were capable of beating anyone in the conference this season and the last 10 days proves that we could."
Corey Maret had a goal and an assist on Sunday to spark the Spartan offense. UNCG had won last weekend's quarterfinal with an own goal and a midfield see-it-to-believe-it tally and then advanced through Friday's semifinal with penalty kicks after a scoreless 110 minutes.
Senior defender Joe Burnett was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Jokull Elisabetarson, Tim Masters and Tebatso Manyama joined Burnett on the all-tournament team. Manyama had the game-winner on Sunday, scoring just 57 seconds after the Cougars tied the score.
"Credit to the back four and the goalkeeping," said Parker. "I've always said the defending wins championships, and it really does. We only let the one goal in over the two games. It was an outstanding defensive performance this weekend. Joe was the best of the bunch back there, he really anchored things. Having said that, Nate (Berry) was outstanding in goal and the whole back four were solid. You can't just put that success to one person, it was the group that came up big."
"It feels great," said Burnett, who waited his turn to shine for UNCG, playing in just 16 matches in his first three seasons. "This team has worked so hard. All the shuttles, all the runs we've done this year, it is all for this right here. We've come together as a team and made adjustments.
"It feels like this is our time. We go to Furman and win on an own goal and a 65-yard shot by Jokull. We win on penalty kicks on Friday and today we put together a solid performance, knowing what was at stake. I just couldn't ask for more."
The first good opportunity for either team came just over nine minutes in. A College of Charleston corner kick went to the opposite side of the box. Matt Morris got a head on it, but it was deflected by a UNCG defender and just over the cross bar.
UNCG had a great chance a few minutes later. Will Mack found Manyama down the left side. Manyama's cross through the goal mouth just eluded the foot of Nirav Kadam and the ball sailed through to the near sideline.
College of Charleston nearly broke the seal 27 minutes in. Kareem Yearwood's shot from 10 yards out hit the bottom side of the crossbar and bounced straight back down. An ensuing shot by the Cougars was whistled dead for offsides.
Manyama got loose with a shade over 12 minutes left in the half. He eluded a defender and found himself one-on-one with the keeper from 12 yards out. His shot for the left post was knocked down by the keeper and cleared away by a defender for a corner kick.
UNCG broke the tie, though, just before intermission. A free kick from 30 yards out on the right wing with 25 seconds left was struck by Elisabetarson. The ball went into a crowd and the Cougars attempted to clear it to the side. However, Maret knocked down the attempted clear and struck the ball just inside of the nearside post to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead with just 14 seconds left on the clock.
The Cougars tied it with 35:26 left in regulation. A corner kick by Zach Prince went across the box to the right post. Matt Morris got his head squarely on it and tucked it just inside the upper corner for his seventh goal of the season.
But the Spartans responded just 57 seconds later. Manyama headed a goal kick to Maret. Maret then gave it back to Manyama and he was off to the races. He hit a left foot into the left side of the net for his fourth goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
Both teams had a couple of chances after that, but UNCG held on for its fourth Southern Conference Tournament title in nine title game appearances.
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
UNC Greensboro...... 1 1 - 2
Coll. of Charleston. 0 1 - 1
SCORING SUMMARY: UNCG - Maret (unassisted) 44:46; C of C – Morris (Prince) 54:33; UNCG – Manyama (Maret) 55:31. Shots: UNCG 12, College of Charleston 10. Saves: UNCG 2 (Berry 2), College of Charleston 5 (Hankins 5). Corner kicks: UNCG 5, College of Charleston 3. Fouls: UNCG 10, College of Charleston 9.
- UNCG -