Midfielder Kevin Mendoza netted two goals, as the No. 4 seed Liberty Flames shut out the No. 5 seed Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, 3-0, in a Big South quarterfinal match, Sunday afternoon at Osborne Stadium.
Mendoza, a first team Big South All-Conference member, scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season. His first goal midway through the second broke a scoreless tie.
Forward Tresor Mbuyu, also a Big South All-Conference first team member, capped off the Liberty victory with his ninth goal in the closing minute of play.
Liberty, 11-5-1, advances to play No. 1 seed High Point in a Big South semifinal match, Wednesday at Vert Stadium in High Point, N.C. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Gardner-Webb sees its season come to an end with an 8-7-2 overall mark.
Liberty records its seventh shutout of the season, holding the Runnin' Bulldogs, who entered the match fourth in the nation with a 2.63 goals per game average, to two shots on goal.
Counterattacking during the contest's seventh minute, the Flames worked Mbuyu open in front of the Gardner-Webb goal for a shot. However, Runnin' Bulldogs' goalkeeper Jacob Beyer deflected the attempt to the ground and then pounced on the ball to prevent an early score.
Gardner-Webb midfielder Magnus Moldjold came free for shot during the 13th minute. His liner hit a Liberty defender and went out over the end line. The Flames then cleared the ensuing corner kick to keep the contest scoreless.
Mendoza almost gave host Liberty a lead in the 20th minute. A Gardner-Webb foul gave the Flames a free kick up against the 18-yard box on the left side. The junior midfielder tried to bend the kick into the near left corner, only to have the attempt strike the post and rebound clear.
Flames midfielder Kevin Stocker pushed a shot wide during the 44th minute play, as the contest went to halftime scoreless.
After two shots by the Runnin' Bulldogs during the opening minutes of the second half went wide, Mbuyu made a run from the midfield, dodging three defenders, before sending a pass across to Stocker. The midfielder put a rising shot on goal, only to see Beyer knock it down with his left hand and smother the ball with a diving save during the 55th minute.
Liberty scored its first goal of the contest at 65:48. From the right sideline, midfielder Rueben Garcia lifted the ball into the center of the box. There, Mendoza headed the ball into the right side of the net for a 1-0 edge.
The Flames continued to pressure the Gardner-Webb defense. During the 80th minute, Liberty midfielder Bobby Bynum got behind the Bulldog defense and was pulled down. As a result of a red card being issued on the play, the visitors played a man down the rest of the way.
Mendoza netted his second goal of the contest during the 85th minute. Defender Geovanny Murillo placed the ball into the left side of the box for midfielder Pepe Segarra. The midfielder pushed the ball right and past a defender for an open Mendoza, who scored for a 2-0 advantage.
Mbuyu closed out the scoring with a goal in the last minute. Segarra flicked a deflection by a Gardner-Webb player ahead to Mbuyu, who ripped a shot into the right side of the net for the 3-0 final score.
Liberty outshot Gardner-Webb, 17-13. The Flames had seven shots on goal, while allowing the Runnin' Bulldogs two. Liberty also held a 6-4 advantage in corner kicks.
James Knoebel made two saves during his 90 minutes in the Liberty net, while Beyer recorded four.