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Liberty Looks to Defend Title this Weekend
DEFENDING CHAMPION ENTERS BIG SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP AS NO. 5 SEED
The 2007 Big South Champion Liberty Flames will open defense of their title as the No. 5 seed for this year's men's soccer championship. Liberty ended conference play with a 4-3-1 mark in the regular season to finish in fifth place in the league's standings with 14 points.
Overall, the Flames have posted a 9-5-2 mark this season, after going 4-0-2 over their last six contests. Liberty will face No. 4 seed High Point in the first contest of the day on Thursday, at noon. The winner will meet the victor of No. 1 seed Winthrop and No. 8 seed VMI on
Friday at 4 p.m.
THE SERIES AGAINST HIGH POINT
Liberty holds the edge in its all-time series against High Point, 10-8-4. The Flames defeated the Panthers, 3-1, earlier this season. Senior forwards Joshua Boateng and Justin Willoughby each scored goals and freshman Alex Verville added a score in the Liberty victory on Sept. 30 at Liberty
Liberty and High Point have met twice in the Big South Men's Soccer Championship, splitting a pair of games. The Flames took the most recent meeting in 2003, 2-1, while in 2000, the Panthers won the first tourney match-up by the same score of 2-1.
UNBEATEN IN LAST SIX
Head Coach Jeff Alder's squad enters Thursday contest, unbeaten in its last six contests. During the stretch, Liberty has posted a 4-0-2 record. In three of the contests, Liberty has recorded a shutout. The Flames closed out their Big South regular season this past Saturday, with a 0-0 tie
against UNC Asheville.
LAST TIME IN THE BIG SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 2 seed Liberty captured its first-ever Big South Conference championship by defeating No. 4 seed Radford, 2-1, in the 2007 title contest. Defender Douglas Nyame and midfielder Cameron Chastain each scored first-half goals in the victory.
Liberty's Joshua Boateng was named tournament MVP and was joined by Chastain, Andrew Kappler and Justin Willoughby on the 2007 All-Tournament team.
LIBERTY IN THE BIG SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
Liberty is 16-15-1 in Big South Championship matches since joining the conference in the 1991 season. The Flames' most common opponent in the tournament has been Winthrop. Liberty holds a 5-3 all-time edge over the Eagles. Liberty has also faced Radford six times and has a 4-1-1 mark against the Highlanders.
The only other team the Flames have played more than twice in the tournament is former conference member UNC Greensboro, with the Spartans winning each of the four meetings between the teams.
Liberty has played Charleston Southern (1-0), Coastal Carolina (0-1), High Point (1-1) and UNC Asheville (3-0), among current league members. The Flames have also played former conference members Birmingham-Southern (1-2), Elon (1-1) and South Alabama (0-2) in the tournament.
With a win in last year's title tilt, the Flames are 1-4 in conference championship matches.
ON THE ATTACK
Liberty has outscored its opponents, 29-22, this season. Senior forward Joshua Boateng enters the tournament atop the conference in goals with 12. The marksman is also tied for the Big South lead in points with 29 and in game-winning goals with four.
The senior is followed by midfielder/defender Chris Phillips, who has tallied 10 points, with two goals and four assists on the year. Senior forward Justin Willoughby is third on the team in scoring, with three goals and three assists for nine points.
Freshman midfielder Karol Chorak is tied for second in the conference and leads Liberty with seven assists. Phillips is tied for fourth in the league and second on the Flames with six helpers.
Coming into the tournament, the Flames have allowed 1.38 goals per game. Liberty has posted five shutouts, with three coming during its last six games.
The goalkeeping duties have been split between sophomores Andrew Madero and Paul Gilbert. Madero has been in the Liberty net over the last six Flames contests, posting a 4-0-2 record with a 0.60 goals-against-average. Gilbert has a 5-5 mark with 1.79 goals-against-average.
The defensive corps has been led by seniors Mike Gelatt, Douglas Nyame and redshirt junior Michael Ward, all of whom have played all 16 of Liberty's contests this season.
Gelatt enters Thursday's contest having started 51 straight games.
FLAMES POST THREE STRAIGHT WINNING SEASONS
With a 9-5-2 mark entering Thursday's match, Liberty will finish the 2008 campaign with its third consecutive winning season.
Last year, the Flames went 13-5-2 in capturing the Big South Championship and finished 9-6 in 2006 to post its first winning mark since 2002. That season, the Flames went 11-8-2 in Jeff Alder's second season as head coach.
It is the first time Liberty has posted three consecutive seasons since the Flames had four straight above .500 seasons from 1996-99.
BOATENG ON HERMANN WATCH LIST
Liberty senior forward Joshua Boateng is one of two Big South players listed on the Hermann Trophy Watch, awarded to the nation's top player at year's end.
Boateng has had his best season in last year in a Flames' uniform. He enters the week as the conference leader in goals with 12. The senior is also tied for the Big South lead in points with 29 and in game-winning goals with four.
Boateng's 29 points rank him eighth on Liberty's single season points list. In addition, he is tied for eighth on the school's single-season goals list.
Last season, he was named the Big South Tournament MVP and was selected to the College Soccer News and Soccer America National teams the week following the Big
GELATT ACADEMIC HONOREE
Liberty redshirt senior defender Mike Gelatt has been named to the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA District III Academic first team for the second year in a row, recognizing his efforts both on the field and in the classroom.
Last season, he was named for the first time to the District III team and went on to be named to the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America first team for men's soccer, becoming the 15th Liberty student-athlete in all sports to earn such an honor.
The business major with a minor in chemistry has started the past 51 Liberty contests and has been a key member of the Flames' defensive corps this year at middle defender. He has scored a goal and assisted on another.
Off the field, Gelatt has posted a 3.83 GPA and been a member of the Dean's list in every semester. In addition, he has earned selection to the Big South Presidential Honor Roll the past four academic years.
YOUNGSTERS COME THROUGH
Liberty has relied heavily on underclassmen this season and several have turned in solid campaigns for the Flames.
Starting play Thursday, freshman midfielder Karol Chorak is among the Big South leaders in assists, sitting second in the conference with seven helpers.
Redshirt freshman Chris Phillips has scored 10 points on two goals and six assists. His six helpers rank him fourth on the Big South list.
Freshman Juan Nino has played in 15 games with 14 starts, scoring two goals and adding three assists for seven points. He scored the game-winner on Nov. 4 at VMI with 20 seconds left in the second overtime for a 3-2 Liberty victory.
Finally, goalkeeper Andrew Madero has not lost since since taking over the netminder duties for Liberty in game 11. He has recorded a 4-0-2 mark with three shutouts. In 600 minutes, he has posted a 0.60 goals-against-average.