Nov 11, 2008

Flames look to punch ticket to NCAA Tournament after 1-0-1 week

by Giselle Colbert

The Liberty Flames men’s soccer team took out the VMI Keydets, 3-2, last Tuesday afternoon in two overtimes, largely due to the late-game heroics of freshman Juan Niño.

Niño fired a shot into the back of the net with 20 seconds left in the second overtime, sending the Flames to victory. Freshman Karol Chorak made a quick pass to Juan Guzman, who delivered it to Niño. Niño sent the ball soaring over VMI goalkeeper Brad Sowell for the win.

“There was good build up, and I just dove in at the right time and scored,” Niño said following his game-winning goal.
Liberty is currently in the midst of a five-game unbeaten streak, going 4-0-1, and the win pushed the Flames record to 4-3 in the Big South Conference and 9-5-1 overall.

Despite the poor weather conditions during the start of the game, the Flames did not hesitate to take the early advantage in the seventh minute. Senior Joshua Boateng tipped a pass into the 18-yard box, and redshirt freshman Chris Phillips was there to receive the pass, which he sent to defender Mike Gelatt. Gelatt’s bicycle kick sent the ball sailing into the upper corner of the net and gave Liberty a 1-0 lead at 6:04, marking the redshirt senior’s first goal of the year.

VMI fought back with a goal of its own at the 16:15 mark. After Flames goalkeeper Andrew Madero received a call for using his hands outside of the 18-yard box, Keydet Jose Andueza took full advantage of the penalty kick, tying the game at 1-1.

However in the 42nd minute, Liberty took charge of the game. With a free kick outside the penalty area, Boateng launched a shot, which was blocked by the Keydets goalkeeper. Phillips was there to handle the rebound, which he fired into the open right side of the net putting the Flames back on top with a 2-1 lead at 41:34.

Trailing 2-1, the Keydets challenged the Flames by tying the game once again at 2-2 to end the opening half. VMI’s Jose Andueza delivered a kick into the center of the 18-yard box, and teammate Bryan Harding sent the ball high into the top of the net for his third goal of the year.

Liberty came back in the second half, working the ball into a free space for Boateng, who launched a shot high less than four minutes in the second half. However, both teams battled to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime.

Neither team was able to get anything going in the overtime periods, but it was Niño’s goal with 20 seconds remaining, which dealt the Keydets a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.

On Saturday afternoon, the Flames once again battled into a second overtime period, this time with UNC-Asheville. In a game which saw both team’s defensive units put to the test, neither the Flames nor the Bulldogs managed to put a goal up on the scoreboard, as the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

Flames goalie Andrew Madero made a save in the 43rd minute from Bulldog Colton Paschall to keep the game scoreless. Not even a minute later, UNC goalkeeper Lassi Hurskainen made a stop on Juan Niño’s shot, sending both teams into halftime with no score.
Boateng talked about what the Flames needed to do in the second half.

“We need to concentrate more because today our concentration was just low. We also need to complete opportunities that are given to us. We don’t always get good opportunities; we need to continue to strengthen our defense.”

Entering the second half, the Bulldogs attempted two shots in the 52nd minute, but once again, Madero came up big and blocked the attempts.

During the first overtime, only a single shot was recorded by either team, as the Flames were able to set Boateng up with an open shot in the 93rd minute. However, his shot sailed wide, setting the stage for a second overtime.

The Flames nearly broke through in the second overtime when midfielder Juan Guzman shot attempt was blocked by a Bulldog defender. The ball caromed to freshman Alex Verville, who fired a shot that Hurskainen barely managed to tip over the net and out of bounds.

Liberty remains undefeated in its last six games (4-0-2), and conclude regular season play with a 4-3-1 record in league play and 9-5-2 record overall. The Flames will begin preperation for the upcoming Big South Championship, which starts Thursday, Nov. 13 in Conway, S.C., looking to repeat as tournament champions and earn a return ticket to the NCAA Tournament as an automatic bid for the second consecutive year.


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