Pieces in place, UNCG downs Furman, 1-0, for share of SoCon title
GREENVILLE, S.C. – While UNCG knew what it needed when the weekend began, the scenario for it to win a share of the Southern Conference's men's soccer regular season title had to seem a little far-fetched. Yet, with Adam Shore's sixth goal of the season late in the second half, that is exactly what the Spartans grabbed in a 1-0 win over Furman on Saturday night.
The title is UNCG's sixth in 14 seasons of membership in the Southern Conference, the last coming in 2006. The Spartans have shared three of the six titles during that time.
The Spartans, 9-5-3 overall and 4-1-2 in league play, needed for Appalachian State and College of Charleston to tie in their match on Saturday afternoon. With the Cougars leading 2-0 with five minutes left to play, the Mountaineers scored twice to force overtime and the match ended just the way UNCG needed – in a draw. Thus, when the Spartans took the pitch on Saturday night, the equation had become simplified – beat Furman and win a share of the crown.
"I'm extremely proud of these guys and especially the seniors with how they have stuck things our through some difficult times," said UNCG interim head coach Justin Maullin. "This was a complete team effort tonight. For the last 10 days, we've kept preaching to the guys to give themselves a chance. We needed three results to go our way this week (including UNCG's win last Tuesday over Appalachian State and the tie in Charleston earlier Saturday). When we talked before the game, we talked tonight about how the pieces had fallen into place and they finally controlled it themselves. It was up to them.
"They've been professional about their approach to things all year long and they stayed that way tonight in a tough environment on the road to finish the job."
Furman, 7-6-4 overall and 3-1-2 in league play, was playing for a share and possibly an outright claim to the title, as well. With the loss, the Paladins could still claim a share of the title and make it a three-way tie if it beats Wofford on Tuesday night in the final conference match of the season.
Regardless, however, the Spartans have claimed the No. 1 seed in the Southern Conference Tournament and will host Georgia Southern in a quarterfinal match next Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Spartans own the head-to-head tiebreaker over College of Charleston by virtue of their win over Appalachian State last Tuesday night and would win a three-way tiebreaker with the Cougars and Furman.
A three-way tie would bump College of Charleston to the No. 3 seed in the tournament by virtue of Furman's win over the Cougars.
Saturday night, UNCG struggled to get many shots against the defensive-minded Paladins. In fact, the Spartans had just two in the first 75 minutes of the match. But the third shot of the night was the most important one. Hakan Ilhan's cross from the left side found Adam Shore, whose shot clanked off the right post and into the goal for his sixth tally of the season and what would be the only marker of the night.
Peyton Ford recorded two saves to log the shutout and run UNCG's unbeaten streak to seven straight matches (5-0-2). Ford has a 0.82 GAA and an .806 save percentage during the current unbeaten streak.
The Spartans, who have now outscored the opposition, 20-6 during its seven-match unbeaten streak, will step out of conference to close out the regular season on Tuesday night, visiting Longwood for a 7 p.m. match.
UNCG................ 0 1 - 1
Furman.............. 0 0 - 0
SCORING SUMMARY: UNCG - Shore (Ilhan), 75:41. Shots: UNCG 5, Furman 11. Saves: UNCG 2 (Ford 2), Furman 2 (Kann 2). Corner kicks: UNCG 4, Furman 3. Fouls: UNCG 19, Furman 13.
- UNCG -