Men’s soccer ventured into the Southern Conference playoff bracket last weekend. The men had a overall season record of 10-7-3 and 6-3-1 in the SoCon games. The previous weekend the UNCG women’s team won their playoff bracket and captured the Southern Conference for the women.
On Friday, the Spartans took on the No. 3 seed Furman Paladins. The game was held in Greenville, SC at 6 p.m. The Paladins were 12-5-3 on the season, and they played really well during this game. Ultimately, the Spartans pulled out the victory over Furman that night by a margin of 3-2.
The first goal of the game came from the Spartans in the 28th minute. Nelson Oceano sailed the ball into the box towards Cyril Owolabi, who skirted around one Furman defender and shot the ball through the opposing goalie’s legs for the first goal of the game. The game was a defensive showdown until the beginning of the second half where the Spartans struck again.
The second half had just started, and the Spartans took advantage. Leeroy Maguraushe booted a pass down the field towards Matt Mattis, who scooped up the ball, dribbled down the left side of the field around some Furman defenders and shot the ball from the left side of the box over the goalie.
Mattis kept pouring it on with his second goal in the second half of the game. The second goal came in the 59th minute of a Spartan set-piece. Austin Matthews executed the free kick, which bounced off a Furman defender and onto the foot of Mattis, who was residing just outside the box. He then shot it into the right side of the goal for his second score of the game.
Furman got on the board in the 75th minute of the game. Furman’s Emery May headed the ball past our goalie off a pass from Danny Kierath. A few minutes later Furman got another goal by Kyle McLagan who scored off a cross from the left corner of the box. That impressive shot went through two Spartan defenders on its way to making the score 3-2.
The Spartans played stout defense the last six minutes of the game to snag the victory and move on to the SoCon championship. The Paladins came close to sending the game into extra time in the last minute of the game, but a handball negated their final chance.
Spartan goalie Jon Milligan had two official saves and multiple important snags of the ball from inside the box at critical times in the second half when the team was trying to hold their lead. The Paladins had more set-pieces than the Spartans because of their late second half comeback. Both teams had 5 total shots on goal during the game.
The blue and gold moved on to the championship game that following Sunday, Nov. 12th. The game kicked off at 1:00 p.m. on a cold and rainy Sunday in Greenville, SC against the feisty Mercer Bears. It was a hard-fought game, but the Spartans could not pull out the victory and ended up losing 3-2 in penalty kicks.
Each team recorded one goal during the typical 90-minute game period. Mercer scored their first goal of the game in the 14th minute of play. Bears player Kobe Perez shot a cross through the 18-yard box, when it then landed near teammate Jake Mezei who shot it from 15 yards out through traffic and past goalie Jon Milligan.
The Spartans responded with a beautiful goal that came off the foot of Leeroy Maguraushe from a pass from Matteo Busio. Leeroy shot the ball from 25 yards out and past the Mercer goalie to tie the game at 1-1.
The goalies for both teams played very well during this game. Both stood tall and kept the game at 1-1 until it came to penalty kicks. No other goals were scored until PKs. The penalty kicks were equally disappointing and exciting.
The game remained tied through 110 minutes of play. The two teams then ventured into the all-intimidating penalty kicks to decide the outcome of the game and the victor of the Southern Conference this season. The Bears got their first kick in goal, but it was quickly tied it up at 1-1 when Matteo Busio converted his shot.
As round three of penalties began, senior Eric Gunnarsson got a goal and Jon Milligan had another big save. The Bears then tied up the game after a successful save and goal. Milligan sent the game into extra kicks off of an incredible diving save. Mercer goalkeeper Booth had more saves in round six of the PKs. Eventually, Jon Milligan got beat by Mercer player Will Bagrou to give the Bears the victory.
It was a good season for the Spartans. They played very hard and did well. They almost won the conference and fought hard until the very end. Looking forward to next season, the team will be just as good if not better, and we should trust that the coaches and players will try their very best next season to try and get UNCG another SoCon championship.