Sep 12, 2006
by Jennifer Schmidt
After having a home game against Gardner-Webb cancelled last week due to excessive rain, the men’s soccer team traveled to Radford this past Tuesday for their first conference game of the season.
Liberty’s men had not lost a game to Radford since 2000 and even broke the Highlander’s undefeated winning streak last season when they came to Liberty.
Much like Liberty’s season opener against Longwood, Tuesday’s game presented many scoring opportunities, but few results.
Liberty managed to get off seven shots to Radford’s eight, yet the game remained scoreless at the half. Things changed quickly in the second half when only five minutes in, Radford got a quick shot into Liberty’s goal, making the game 1-0.
Play remained very physical as each team fought for control of the ball, yet the Highlanders were able to slip another goal through the Flames defense during the 74th minute of the game, putting the Flames behind 2-0.
After a foul in the box on Liberty, Radford was afforded a penalty kick that led to their third goal of the match.
The Flames finally got on the board when, with less than two minutes of play remaining, sophomore forward Toby Lewis, a regular starter and offensive threat for the Flames, netted Liberty’s lone goal off an assist from senior Darryl Roberts.
Head Coach Jeff Alder said, “We got through the first half of the game and the second half started fantastic until we had a small mistake and Radford was able to convert that into a goal.”
Alder affirms that his defense did not break down, only that Radford capitalized on a few poor clearances by Liberty.
“It’s early in the season and we have had a few games cancelled, thus we’ve played less than some of the teams we are facing. This is a learning experience for us,” Alder said.
Liberty’s offensive line has produced 32 shots in its last two games but netted only two goals.
Nevertheless, Alder is optimistic. “The goals will come. We have had chances and created opportunities – now we need goals.” After assessing the situation, senior goalkeeper Kevin Mahan observed, “We didn’t put in a good enough effort against Radford, but this is a little bump. We’re knit together as a team and this should be our greatest season.”
Saturday, Liberty hosted the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in front of more than 2,300 fans.
Though it was not a conference match, the intensity and level of play put out by the Flames was incredibly high.
During the first half, the Flames saw numerous chances at goals from the consistent play of Roberts and Lewis – who hit the crossbar in one especially close shot.
The Flames defense and midfield held North Carolina to only five shots and the first half closed with a scoreless tie. Possession ranged from one end of the playing field to the other in the second half.
Liberty allowed only one corner kick to North Carolina, yet took four on the other end of the field.
Halfway through the second half, the Tar Heels quickly converted a change of possession into a goal only eight yards out from Liberty’s net.
Liberty sophomore midfielder Joshua Boateng, a transfer from Virginia Tech, and Roberts, whose bicycle kick in the 87th minute nicked the top of the crossbar, continued to create opportunities, but could not garner a goal.
Despite out shooting North Carolina 13-11, the game ended with the Tar Heels on top 1-0.
“Liberty has a lot of talent and they played well and created many chances,” noted Liberty fan AJ Serafini.
North Carolina head coach Elmar Bolowich echoed those sentiments. “I’m glad we escaped a loss here – they played stronger than we did in the first half, though we were able to even it out in the second.”
Bolowich said that he was not surprised by the tempo of the game. “Liberty’s record is not indicative of their talent – they are a good team.”
From Alder’s perspective, this game was another indication that Liberty needs one or two of those close goals they seem to get each game to start going in.
“North Carolina is a good team and was able to break up some plays that we need to learn how to restart. But we created chances and it will come.” Alder added that after today’s game, Liberty’s squad has set the standard for themselves and now have a good amount of confidence going into their next set of conference games.
On Tuesday, the Flames (1-2) go on the road to face Big South Conference opponent VMI (1-3).
The next home game for the Flames will be September 19th when they host conference rival Coastal Carolina.
The 3-1 loss to Radford gives the Flames a 0-1 record in the Big South conference.
Contact Jennifer Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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