The Liberty Flames erupted for three goals late in the first half and then used strong defensive play en route to a 3-1 victory over the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, in a Big South Conference match, Saturday afternoon at Osborne Stadium.
Blessing Tahuona, Sachem Wilson and Tyler Bullock each scored a goal for the Flames during a span of 9:32 to close out the first half.
Liberty evens its record to 3-3 in Big South play and 8-4-1 overall. The contest was televised nationally by the Liberty Flames Sports Network and ESPN3.
UNC Asheville netted the contest's first goal at 15:33. Defender Paul Engle slipped a pass from the right sideline to forward Victor Aguiar just above the corner of the 18-yard box. Side-stepping a defender, Aguiar sent a rising shot into the top of the net for his second goal of the year and a 1-0 advantage for the Bulldogs.
Liberty quickly countered off the restart. Forward Ernest Siaw came free inside the box during the 16th minute. However, his shot went high over the goal.
The Flames found the equalizer during the 34th minute. Off corner kick from the right sideline by Conner Fleming, Tahuona headed a shot from the near post into the lower corner of the goal. His goal of the year tied the contest at 1-1 at 33:32.
Less than three minutes later, Liberty took the lead for good. After a Bulldogs defender blocked a long shot attempt, Wilson collected the loose ball and lined a shot from six yards out into the corner at 36:19. The junior's goal gave Liberty a 2-1 advantage.
Right before halftime, the Flames extended their lead at 1:56. Midfielder Kurt Meyers inserted the ball to Bullock, who buried a shot from the left corner of the 18-yard box, for 3-1 Liberty edge heading to halftime. The assist by Meyers was the first point of his collegiate career.
In the second half, the Liberty displayed a strong defense effort. The Flames did not allow a shot until the last 10 seconds of the period. Liberty controlled possession throughout the half, firing 10 shots.
Liberty continued its pressure and came close to adding to its lead during the opening minutes of the period. Less than two minutes into the period, the Flames worked midfielder Brady Mazzei free for a shot from 20 yards out, which went off the left post.
Liberty held a 22-5 advantage in shots and a 9-3 edge in corner kicks in the contest.
Goalkeeper Scott Sutarik, who was honored before the game as part of the Flames' Senior Day activities, recorded one save for the Flames. Goalkeeper Dan Jackson made three saves in the first half, while Zak Davis collected five saves in the second half for the Bulldogs.
Along with Sutarik, senior midfielder David Maharaj was also recognized before the contest.
Liberty travels to Raleigh, N.C., for its last non-conference regular season match on Tuesday. The Flames will square off with the N.C. State Wolfpack. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m.