Coming off a tough 1-0 loss during homecoming weekend, the UNCG Men’s Soccer team looked to get back on track against the 0-14 VMI Keydets to close the regular season with another tally in the win column. The Spartans faced VMI earlier this season in a 4-0 victory to open Southern Conference play, and on Saturday night’s match, they finished off the Keydets in an 8-1 blowout victory.
This match marked the final regular season home game for UNCG this season, and also the final regular season home match in the careers of seniors: Goalkeeper Logan Rohde, midfielder Ricky Chavez, forward Damieon Thomas, midfielder/defender Quin Lema, and defender Hugo Coicaud. Before the game kicked off, the five seniors were honored at midfield, accompanied by friends, family, and coaches and were given a bouquet of flowers and a framed poster of themselves. “They’re just a class group of kids,” explained men’s soccer head coach Justin Maullin, “they’re loyal, they’re honest, they’re hard working, and I’ll miss them dearly.”.
The match itself didn’t take much time to really get going, as the Spartans were able to find the back of the net by the 12 minute mark, thanks to a Casey Penland header stemming from a Matteo Busio corner kick. Not long after, Penland was able to score again, by rebounding a Damieon Thomas shot attempt just before the 16 minute mark. The two sides continued to battle through the 26 minute mark, before Alexander Lewis knocked in a goal off of a cross from Quin Lema. Just three minutes later, UNCG was able to extend its lead to 4-0 from another corner kick, in which junior Eric Gunnarsson was able to score off of the rebound of Faisal Almubaslat’s initial shot. VMI was finally able to get on the scoreboard at the 41st minute, in which the Keydets were able to slip past the Spartan back line, and beat goalkeeper Logan Rohde on the breakaway, ending the first half with the Spartans having the same goals scored as in their previous match.
The second half was very much the same story as the first half, with UNCG continuing to add to their lead in bunches. At the 59 minute mark, Damien Thomas scored a beautiful goal after chipping the ball above a VMI defender, then shooting the ball past the goalkeeper in remarkable fashion. The next goal was assisted by Thomas about a minute later, which was a 18 yard laser from Matteo Busio. “I thought we scored some very good looking goals,” said Coach Maullin, “I thought we went down in good wide areas, and our delivery was very good.”. Alexander Lewis was able to add his second goal of the game in the 66th minute of play, and the final goal of the match was scored by Faisal Almubaslat and assisted by Tavion Webb, who was able to kick a spectacular cross into the box. The match ended with UNCG outshooting the Keydets 36-7 and holding an 11-2 advantage in corner kicks.
The Spartans ended the regular season with a record of 10-6-2, and finished 6-4-0 SoCon play, good enough for the fourth seed in the upcoming SoCon tournament. Against Mercer, Wofford, and East Tennessee State this season, the top three seeds, the Spartans have a 2-4 record against them. Although they were unable to repeat as regular season SoCon championships, the Spartans are very much in the picture to compete for the SoCon tournament championship, as they are hosting this year’s tournament at the UNCG Soccer Stadium. “Obviously we want to win the title on our home turf”, said Coach Maullin, “We’re very disappointed we didn’t win the regular season title.”. The Blue and Gold will face the sixth seed and defending champion Furman Paladins on Saturday November 5 at 7 p.m. in their opening game of the SoCon Tournament.