By Brandon Boyer, Staff Writer
Published in print Aug. 27, 2014
Men’s soccer kicked off UNCG sports this year with two preseason matches last week.
The Spartans won their first game of the season with an absolute route Wednesday evening, dismantling rival, Guilford College by an astounding score line of 8-0. The game was played in an unusual format of three, 30-minute periods, which allowed for heavy rotation of players and saw the majority of the action come in the final third.
The freshmen made a big statement in the match with Neico Regent dominating the midfield with a calmness on the ball rarely seen in collegiate play. Tommi Gardarsson and Jacques Francois ran circles around the Guilford defense, with little the Quakers could do to stop them.
With six different Spartans scoring, sophomore Nicholas Downs and Garadarsson led the charge with two goals each. Downs was highly efficiency, taking only two shots and planting both in the back of the net.
The first preseason game for the Spartans was not even a contest. UNCG held possession for remarkable periods of time throughout the match, continually pressing Guilford on defense and basically setting up camp in the Guilford net.
In their Saturday evening matchup against Liberty University, it was a much more contested affair, as both sides finished the game off with a goal a piece, 1-1.
Liberty scored in the 14th minute of the contest, as a shot deflected off a Spartan defender looped over the outstretched hands of goalie Davis Griffin.
After the goal, UNCG controlled the ebb and flow of the game, as senior Austin Miller drew a foul in the box in the 29th minute, leading to a penalty kick. Junior Lukas Zargas stepped up for the kick, but was blocked by Liberty’s goalkeeper Scott Sutarik,who looked nearly unbeatable in the match.
Greensboro finally broke through in the 39th minute after a pair of shots were stopped by Sutarik, Miller finally tucked away his own rebound on his second try, tying the game.
The Spartans’ soccer head coach, Justin Maulin, seemed pleased with his team’s defense, but felt they deserved more out of the first half, saying, “I thought we started out the first 15-20 minutes and defended very, very well. Didn’t create much in those first 15, 20, but the second part of the first half I thought we really started to create some good chances. [We were] unfortunate with the own goal. I think it was nine shots to zero the first half. […] [It] felt like we should’ve been on top at half time.”
As the second half came, both teams battled for the last 45 minutes as the Flames stretched and pressed the Spartans’ defense to a breaking point on a few occasions. Freshman goalkeeper William Pyle of the Spartans made two tremendous saves in the second half, keeping UNCG in the game even after his defense had been beaten.
The second half brought a rise in the physicality of the games, as several challenges went in on Greensboro players that were much harder than what you would normally see for a preseason friendly.
Two challenges in three minutes led to yellow cards for Jovanni Chavez and Alan Arellano of Liberty in the second half. Coach Maulin noted this after the game, saying, “Division one soccer is a physical game. The referees do a great job. Sometime we don’t agree with the calls they make and don’t see it the same way, but that’s all it was… [I] thought it was a little bit harsh and a bit one-sided.”
Coach Maulin went on to explain the difference between this game and the one against Guilford College, stating, “Obviously, this was a Division one team. [They are] a lot more physical. They didn’t punish us as much as they should have with the giveaways. Usually, when you’re playing good teams, anytime you give them a chance, they’re going to punish you, so, thankfully, they didn’t. If they did, they would’ve beaten us 6-1. But, I think that was the difference – the physicality.”