UNCG extends unbeaten streak to six, stays alive in SoCon title hunt with win over Appalachian State
GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG's Trey Johnson scored just 24 seconds before halftime and swung the momentum as the Spartans downed Appalachian State, 3-0, to extend their unbeaten streak to six consecutive matches and keep the possibility of a SoCon regular season title alive.
Should the Spartans beat Furman on Saturday night and College of Charleston and Appalachian State tie on Saturday, UNCG could have a share of the title in either a two-way or three-way tie. Furman would still have a game remaining against Wofford the following week and could forge it into a three-way tie.
"That's a good win against a good Appalachian State team," said interim head coach Justin Maullin. "They had us in the first half and we were struggling to play. It was messy and it was scrappy. We were very fortunate to come out of that half with a lead with the way they had played.
"We preached this whole week to the guys to just give themselves a chance to play for a championship on Saturday," said Maullin. "We'll know the Appalachian State-College of Charleston score before we hit the field Saturday night and we'll know if that's a possibility for us. We've controlled what we can control to this point. We can't control what they do on Saturday, but at least we've given ourselves an opportunity."
Johnson scored after a blocked shot caromed to him. Eric Carrion's shot went off a defender and deflected to Johnson. Johnson blasted it after one dribble for his first collegiate tally and a 1-0 lead with just 24 seconds remaining before intermission.
"That was a big goal," said Maullin. "Appalachian State was on top of us and that kind of turned things for us."
Hakan Ilhan scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season and Adam Shore added his fifth goal of the year as the Spartans stretched the lead in the second half. Ilhan's tally came after a long pass by Ross Burki got Ilhan some space in the right corner of the box. Ilhan then hit a blast into the top left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead with 26:37 to play.
Shore made it 3-0 a little over five minutes later. Matt Strine lifted a ball over the defense and into space. Shore ran it down and shot it from almost the same spot on the field as Ilhan's tally.
The win ran UNCG's record to 8-5-3 overall, 3-1-2 in SoCon play. The Spartans are unbeaten in their last six matches, going 4-0-2 in that span. Appalachian State fell to 7-6-2 overall, 4-2-0 in SoCon play, but still has a chance to claim a SoCon regular season title with a win at College of Charleston on Saturday and a Furman loss. The Mountaineers and Paladins could also share the title if Furman had a win and tie in its last two matches, coupled with an Appalachian State win in Charleston.
Wrapped up in all of that scenario, as well, is the battle for home field advantage in the conference tournament's quarterfinal round. With the top four teams hosting a quarterfinal match on the weekend of November 6, five teams are separated by just three points. Elon, also in the mix with 10 points at 3-2-1, can't win the regular season title, but is heavily in contention for a home field slot. The Phoenix still face Georgia Southern on the road Friday.
Ilhan now has 20 points on the season with seven goals and six assists. He is the first Spartan since Thomas Campbell in 2007 to surpass the 20-point mark in a season.
UNCG will travel to face Furman at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
Appalachian State... 0 0 - 0
UNCG................ 1 2 - 3
SCORING SUMMARY: UNCG Johnson (Carrion), 44:36; UNCG Ilhan (Burki), 64:23; UNCG Shore (Strine), 69:43. Shots: Appalachian State 4, UNCG 14. Saves: Appalachian State 5 (Branson 5), UNCG 1 (Ford 1, Copeland 0). Corner kicks: UNCG 2, Appalachian State 2. Fouls: UNCG 11, Appalachian State 8.
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