UNC Asheville forces a draw, but Flames still manage to earn the No. 3 seed in the Big South tournament
The University of North Carolina (UNC) Asheville Bulldogs took to the field at Osborne Stadium as underdogs Friday, Nov. 2. They were losers of all nine of their conference games to date, but were able to avoid a 10th loss, playing Liberty University to a 0-0 draw.
Despite the match going into a second overtime period, the Flames tie against UNC Asheville extended their unbeaten run to nine games. The Flames end the regular season with a conference record of 6-1-3 and an overall record of 8-6-3.
“I thought Asheville played extremely well. We knew that with them not qualifying for the playoffs, they were going to be hungry, and it showed, ” Head Coach Jeff Alder said. “I felt that we had two or three chances that we should have finished in the first half, but there were two or three shots that were reduced by their keeper. He made some good saves.”
Dan Jackson, the Bulldogs goalkeeper, made eight saves over the course of the night and managed to keep out the Flames defense despite severe pressure on goal. Liberty outshot UNC Asheville 25-10.
As the 2012 season ends, seven seniors will be hanging up their cleats for their last time. Before the match started, the graduating seniors were awarded with framed jerseys and took pictures with the coaches and their families to commemorate the occasion.
“I love our seniors,” Alder said. “They’ve got a special place in my heart.”
According to Alder, the senior group has been the glue of the team this year.
“We started the year with a record of two (wins) and six (losses). But those guys just kept fighting and competing and willing us to win, and they got us steamrolling in the right direction.” Alder said.
The graduating seniors include Rafael Amaya, Uriah Bentick, Zack Clark, Andrew Jones, Travis Joseph, Richard Nyarko and Greg White. White is the current team captain and has started in 75 consecutive games that span four years.
“It was just a great experience,” White said. “I can’t thank the coach and staff enough for giving us a chance to come here and work. God has done so much in my life, and it’s just been phenomenal. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“My experience at Liberty University was great. It was hard, it was fun, it had everything I could ask for,” Joseph said. “I think the coach has been building a really good team in the last couple of years, and I’m looking forward to finish on a high note. We won the Big South Championship last year, and I believe we can win it again this year.”
The path towards another championship begins Tuesday, Nov. 6 at Osborne Stadium.
The Liberty Flames are seeded No. 3, after Coastal Carolina (10-1) and Radford University (7-2-1), and will host No. 6 Winthrop (5-4-1) in their first playoff game.
The semifinals will be aired on the Big South Network Nov.. 9, and the finals will be broadcasted on ESPN3 Nov. 11.