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Liberty Falls in Big South Title Tilt, 2-1
Liberty finishes its season at 12-5-3, after making its sixth appearance in the conference championship game. Winthrop, also the 2008 champion, improves to 11-5-4 and receives the Big South's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The contest opened with Liberty striking for an early lead, just 1:41 into the match. After the Eagle defense failed to clear their penalty area, forward Darren Amoo (R-So., Accra, Ghana) picked up the loose ball and sent a pass to midfielder Alex Verville (So., Rochester Hills, Mich.), who beat Winthrop goalkeeper Enrique Miranda with a shot to the far post from 12 yards out. Verville's third goal of the year gave Liberty a 1-0 lead.
The play settled down over the next 35 minutes, with neither team finding many scoring opportunities. Liberty forward Timothy Bullock (So., Forest, Va.) came free in the seventh minute for a shot, which was handled by Miranda.
Winthrop evened the contest in the closing minutes of the first half. Working from the left side of the field, Matt Skonicki moved into open space and sent a crossing pass to the front of the goal mouth. Midfielder Stephen Nsereko ran onto the pass, took a touch and fired a shot into the lower left corner of the goal from the top of the 18-yard box to tie the match at 1-1 in the 41st minute.
Through the first 25 minutes of the second half, defense continued to be tight. Neither the Flames nor the Eagles were able to get a shot on goal during the span.
Winthrop found the game-winning marker in the 73rd minute. Skonicki headed a shot off the crossbar, which bounced straight down and back to the forward. Sknoicki headed the rebound into the net for his 13th goal of the year and a 2-1 lead.
After the score, Liberty tried to find the equalizer, but was limited to two shots down the stretch, one which went wide and another which was blocked by a defender.
Winthrop outshot Liberty, 14-6, and also held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks.
Goalkeeper Panashe Nhekario (Jr., Smyrna, Ga.) recorded two saves for the Flames. Miranda made two saves for the Eagles.
After the contest, Amoo, Bullock and Liberty defender Greg White (R-Fr., Wellington, Nova Scotia) were named to the all-tournament team.
2009 Big South All-Tournament Team
Miquel Casajuana – Winthrop (MVP)
Daniel Di Biagio - Winthrop
Jordan Osborn - Winthrop
Enrique Miranda - Winthrop
Darren Amoo - Liberty
Timothy Bullock - Liberty
Greg White – Liberty
Alex Russell – Coastal Carolina
Scott Angevine - Coastal Carolina
Darren Patrio - Radford
Brendan Shaffer – Radford
Jovan Ivanovic - Gardner-Webb
Brian Sowell – VMI
J.J. Morrow - UNC Asheville
Karo Okiomah - High Point