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Liberty Advances to Conference Final

November 14, 2009
|  Boiling Springs, N.C.
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Darren Amoo scored his team-leading 14th goal, Saturday evening.

Darren Amoo scored his team-leading 14th goal, Saturday evening.

The No. 3 seed Liberty Flames scored two first-half goals and used another solid defensive effort to power past No. 7 seed Radford, 2-0, in the fifth game of the 2009 Big South Men's Soccer Championship, Saturday evening at Greene Harbison Stadium.

With the win, the Flames advance to tomorrow's championship game against No. 4 seed Winthrop, which advanced on penalty kicks, 4-2, over No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina earlier in the day. Liberty will make its first appearance in the title match since 2007, when the Flames won their first-ever conference crown, 2-1, over Radford at Eagle Field in Rock Hill, S.C. Game time Sunday is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Liberty improves to 12-4-3 on the year, while Radford ends its season at 5-9-3. Liberty, after making its fourth semifinal appearance, will make its sixth appearance in the Big South championship game. In addition, the Flames reach the 12-win mark for the sixth time in program history. Only the 2007 team (13 wins), the 1999 team (14) and the 1985 team (14) have posted more victories.

Both teams tested the goalkeeper during the first 20 minutes of play. In the 17th minute, Liberty keeper Panashe Nhekario (Jr., Smyrna, Ga.), making his first collegiate start, stopped his first shot of the game, off the foot of Radford midfielder Iyiola Awosika.

A minute later, a shot by Flames forward Timothy Bullock (So., Forest, Va.) forced a save by Highlander keeper Ryan Taylor.

Liberty struck for its first goal in the 22nd minute. Forward Darren Amoo (R-So., Accra, Ghana), the Flames' leading scorer, took a cross pass from Brian Edman (R-Fr., D, Spring, Texas) and headed it past Taylor. The goal, Amoo's team-leading 14th of the year, gave Liberty a 1-0 advantage.

Neither team had another scoring opportunity until seven minutes remainded before halftime. Flames senior forward Andrew Scheck (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) flipped the ball into the 18-yard box, which ricocheted off a Radford defender and trickled into the net for an own goal and a 2-0 Liberty advantage at intermission.

The game went scoreless for the rest of the half, as the Flames took a two-score advantage going into intermission.

In the final 45 minutes neither team was able to score, with both squads displaying strong defense.

After a header by James Jordan in the 68th minute, Liberty did not allow another attempt until a shot by Radford sailed high off a corner kick until the 88th minute, sealing the 2-0 win.

The shutout was the 12th of the year by the Flames, who blanked No. 6 seed UNC Asheville on Friday, 1-0. With the blanking, head coach Jeff Alder's club ties the 1985 Liberty team for the most shutouts in a season in program history.

Nherkario made four saves for Liberty, posting his first shutout in a Flames uniform. The Flames also added a team save. Taylor recorded four stops for the Highlanders.

Shots were even in the contest, 11-11, while the Flames held a 7-3 edge in corner kicks.