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Terriers Edge Flames, 1-0
In an end-to-end, tightly contested match, the St. Francis (N.Y.) Terriers used a first-half goal to edge the Liberty Flames, 1-0, Sunday afternoon in the third game of the Sculley Memorial Tournament at Patchin Field.
With its first setback of 2009, Liberty drops to 3-1 on the year. The defeat ends the third-longest unbeaten streak ever by a Flames team at 11 matches. St. Francis evens its record at 2-2 in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Less than six minutes into the opening period, a St. Francis foul in the 18-yard box resulted in a penalty shot for Liberty. However, Terrier goalkeeper Chris Antonino, who was named to the all-tournament team, made a diving stop of the kick by Juan Guzman (Sr., Charlotte, N.C.), preventing the Flames from denting the scoreboard early.
In the eighth minute, St. Francis pressured the Liberty net. From the right wing, forward Greg Braum ripped a shot attempt off the crossbar of the Flames' goal, before the Liberty defense cleared the ball.
After the early attacks by both teams, play settled between the boxes in the neutral zone.
In the 22nd minute, the squads exchanged corner kicks. On the Terrier attempt, Javier Gonzales' header came close to finding net, popping over the crossbar and out of harm's way.
St. Francis followed the attempt off a free kick. However, a header by midfielder Leonardo Buttitta was saved by Liberty goalkeeper Andrew Madero (Jr., Tampa, Fla.), keeping the match scoreless.
The Terriers scored the game's first goal in the 34th minute. Madero stopped a header by Andrew Matos, but was not able to gain possession of the ball. The rebound rolled out to the left side of the penalty area to midfielder Semso Nikocevic, who fired a shot which the Liberty keeper could not hold. Nikocevic then tipped the second rebound into the net for his second goal of the year and a 1-0 St. Francis advantage.
Liberty countered in the 37th minute. Midfielder Juan Nino (So., Katy, Texas) got behind the Terrier defense, but his header sailed high.
In the final minute of the half, Flames Andrew Scheck (Sr., Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) broke into open space on the right side of the field. The forward lofted a pass to Nino who ripped a shot which Antonino blocked away with one hand, sending St. Francis to intermission up, 1-0.
In the fast-paced opening half, the Terriers held an 8-5 shot advantage and 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
The opening minutes of the second half saw the two sides exchange corner kicks, but neither was able to make a shot attempt due to strong defensive play by both teams.
In the 56th minute, Liberty forward and all-tournament team member, Darren Amoo (R-So., Accra, Ghana), found room on the left side just inside the 18-yard box and fired a shot, which hit off the far post and out of bounds.
The Flames kept on the attack. In the 60th minute, Michael Ward (R-Sr., D, Seffner, Fla.) came up from his defensive position to rip a shot attempt off Antonino. The defender was later named to the all-tournament for his play during the weekend tournament.
Eight minutes later, Liberty was able to spring forward Travis Joseph (Fr., F, Laventille, Trinidad) for a shot on the right side, but once again Terrier keeper Antonio was able to make the save.
St. Francis countered with a chance of its own in the 70th minute. On a break, Nikocevic launched a shot from 25 yards off the right side, which Madero jumped up and plucked out of the air for a save.
The Terriers followed the attempt in the 76th minute with another breakaway. Using a long clearing pass to counter a Liberty attack, Nikocevic blasted a shot from 30 yards out from the left side of the field, which Madero once again snagged for a save.
The Flames pressured the St. Francis defense as time ran down in regulation. With eight seconds left, Liberty got one last attempt to score. The Flames were awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out, but Liberty was unable to get a shot attempt off as time expired.
For the contest, Terriers held a slight, 12-11, edge in shots over Flames, as well as in corner kicks, 8-6.
Liberty's Madero made five saves in the contest, but the junior takes his first loss in net in 13 career starts for the Flames. Antonino recorded four saves for St. Francis.
Besides Amoo and Ward, defender Chris Mandell (Sr., Bowling Green, Va.) was selected to the all-tournament squad.
The Flames return home to Osborne Stadium Saturday for their first Big South Conference tilt of the season. Liberty will host in-state conference rival, the Radford Highlanders. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
2009 Jay Sculley Memorial All-Tournament Team
Kurt Zimmerman, VMI
Chris Curtis, VMI
David Rochow, VMI
Michael Ward, Liberty
Darren Amoo, Liberty
Chris Mandell, Liberty
Chris Antonino, St. Francis
Semso Nikocevic, St. Francis
Paul Benkert, St. Francis
Andrew Cotes, Rider
Jim Bradley, Rider
Alex Titus, Rider