Winthrop Eagles men’s soccer program proved that tournament seedings should be taken with a grain of salt during this year’s Big South Championship.
The Eagles were seeded sixth going into the tournament, but they managed to beat the top three seeds that were expected to take the championship title based on their conference performance.
Liberty University was the first victim of Winthrop’s impressive run, defeating Liberty 2-1 in overtime. In the semi-finals, the Eagles edged Radford University 2-1.
Winthrop lifted the Big South Championship cup in the finals when they defeated Coastal Carolina 3-2 during regular time.
The Flames scored late into the second half when senior Greg White headed in a loose ball deflected from a free kick. Winthrop tied the game in the 82nd minute when Liberty goalie Scott Sutarik kicked the ball in the back of Winthrop forward Marc Segarra near the Liberty goal, and then a striker chipped the ball over Sutarik and into the goal.
The game-winning goal was scored by Mason Lavallet, who redirected a cross into the goal just four minutes into overtime.
“This is obviously a very disappointing game for us,” Head Coach Jeff Alder said. “We had such a good year … and to lose a game like that, I hurt for our seniors.”
The men’s soccer team had a very polarized season in 2012. They slumped to a 2-6-0 record at the first half of the year but ended the season with a positive record and a winning streak. Liberty was seeded third when it went into the quarterfinal rounds Tuesday, Nov. 6.
“I really felt we started the season very slow, but to finish the regular season with a nine-game winning streak, I think our guys learned how to play together, and I think our guys learned how to win close games,” Alder said.
Alder also mentioned that the team improved with every game they played, and that through their defeats, they became hungry for victory.
“We have a good returning group next season, and we just have to use (frustration of losing) as a catalyst to get better,” he said.
The Liberty men’s soccer team ends its season with an overall record of 8-7-3 and a conference record of 6-1-3. Although Liberty was knocked out of the tournament in the first round of the Big South Championship, Alder said that he is proud of his team.
“I was very proud of them overall because they gave us everything that we asked them to give us, but unfortunately, we just didn’t close it out tonight,” Alder said.