A strong defensive effort propelled the No. 7 seed Liberty Flames past the No. 2 seed High Point Panthers, 1-0, in a quarterfinal match of the Big South Men's Soccer Championship, Tuesday evening at Vert Stadium.
Liberty scored the game's lone goal during the 21st minute and received a solid performance in goal by Scott Sutarik, who made seven saves. The Flames recorded their sixth shutout as a team this season in the victory.
Liberty moves to 10-8 on the season and advances to play the No. 3 seed Longwood Lancers in the second Big South Men's Soccer Championship semifinal, Friday night at the Bryan Soccer Complex in Greensboro, N.C. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
High Point finishes the year with an 8-8-3 record.
Playing in his first game since Oct. 1, Liberty goalkeeper Sutarik came up with two big saves early in the contest. During the fourth minute, Sutarik smothered a header off a corner kick by defender Sonny Munkungu at the Flames keeper's feet. He then stopped a shot by midfielder Pat Shelton and cleared the zone.
Liberty countered with pressure of its own during the sixth minute. Off an entry pass into the left side of the 18-yard box, forward Sachem Wilson pushed a shot toward the far post, forcing a High Point defender to range back and kicked the ball away from the goal line to prevent a score.
With Liberty holding possession, the Flames came up with another scoring opportunity during the 15th minute. Midfielder Jonatan Torres got free at the right post and tipped a crossing pass just wide of the far left post.
Liberty struck for the game's first goal off a corner kick at 20:20. After the kick was settled, forward Kyle Breitmeyer sent a pass into the box for a shot by defender Jaime Foxwell. Panthers goalkeeper Kody Palmer knocked down the shot, but could not control the rebound. Wilson, who was right in front of the keeper, collected the loose ball and ripped a shot into the back of the net for his 10th goal of the year and a 1-0 Flames' advantage.
Play then settled into the midfield during the rest of the period. A shot wide in the 44th minute by High Point's Chris Ramsell closed out the half with Liberty in front, 1-0.
The Panthers held an 8-7 edge in shots during the opening half, while Liberty held a 3-2 edge in corner kicks.
Neither team was able to amount an attack during the early 15 minutes of the second half. High Point created a scoring opportunity during the 63rd minute. Midfielder Adam Sewell headed a pass lofted to the top of the 18-yard box towards the Liberty goal, forcing a diving stop by Sutarik to keep the Flames' lead.
Shot attempts remained at a premium, with High Point getting a corner kick during the 70th minute. However, the Flames' defensive did not allow a shot attempt off the kick and cleared their zone relieving pressure.
Five minutes later, Liberty was able to create an opportunity on a corner kick. The kick went through the entire box and out the other side without being touched. High Point then cleared to end the Flames' pressure.
The Liberty defense continued its strong play down the stretch. The Flames did not allow a shot attempt from the 71st minute until a shot wide by Shelton during the 83rd minute.
High Point received a free kick just outside the 18-yard box at 84:37. However, midfielder Renato Punyed sailed the kick over the goal, keeping the score, 1-0 Liberty.
In transition, Sutarik made a diving deflection of a header by Ramsell at 87:56. Liberty then cleared the ensuing corner kick, sealing the 1-0 victory.
High Point outshot Liberty, 17-10, in the contest. Corner kicks were even at four apiece.
Sutarik records his fourth shutout of the year. His seven saves tie the junior goalkeeper's season high, which he also posted in a season-opening 1-0 win at Georgia State on Aug. 29.
Palmer made three saves for the Panthers.