Justin Willoughby netted the game-winner and added an assist, as Liberty advanced Thursday in the Big South Championship.
The No. 2 seed Liberty Flames scored two unanswered goals in the final eight minutes of play to come back and defeat the No. 7 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 2-1, in the second game of the 2007 Big South Men's Soccer Championship Thursday at Eagle Field on the campus of Winthrop University.
With the win, Liberty advances to play the winner of No. 3 seed Winthrop and No. 6 seed High Point tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. in the semifinals of the Big South Championship. The Flames ran their record to 11-4-2 on the season and will make a second-straight semifinal appearance on Friday. It is the fourth semifinal appearance in five years for Liberty. UNC Asheville closes the season at 4-12-1.
Liberty's 11 victories are the most by a Flames men's soccer squad since 2002, when the Flames posted an 11-8-2 mark during head coach Jeff Alder's second season at the helm.
The squads played a physical first half with strong defense, and neither team was able to strike for a marker in the first half. Liberty carried the action in the opening period outshooting the Bulldogs, 8-1.
Midway through the second half, UNC Asheville struck for the game's first goal. Scott Szymanski found open space approximately 20 yards out and blasted a shot to the left corner of the net to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead at 63:02. The tally was Szymanski's ninth goal of the year, with J.W. Gallagher assisting on the play.
The score remained until 81:02. Liberty's Cameron Chastain (Jr., MF, Upton, Md.) got past the Bulldogs' defense and took a long feed from Justin Willoughby (Sr., F, Greenville, N.C.), drilling it past Bulldog keeper Phillip Horner to knot the game at one. The goal was Chastain's first of the year.
Looking to give Liberty the lead, midfielder Jeremiah Kappler (Sr., Bear, Del.) broke free for a shot with four minutes remaining, but Horner made a diving block of the attempt to keep the score at 1-1. Moments later, Flames' midfielder Joshua Boateng (Jr., MF/F, Accra, Ghana) dribbled down the right side of the field and sent a crossing pass through the UNC Asheville penalty area, finding an open Willoughby. The forward pushed home his third goal of the season at 87:19 to give Liberty a 2-1 win. Liberty outshot UNC Asheville, 12-4, while corner kicks were even at 4-4. Flames' keeper Paul Gilbert, the 2007 Big South Men's Soccer Freshman of the Year, recorded one save on the afternoon, while Bulldog netminder Horner recorded three stops.
Liberty was whistled offsides six times in the game, while UNC Asheville was offside once.
UNC Asheville head coach Steve Cornish "Liberty is such an explosive team. Full credit to them, they made good on their chances when they had to. I told our team at half, the wind doesn't win the game for you, but it helps you defend. I am not sure how we got stretched there at the end, but we did and they took advantage. I thought we attacked well in the second half and thought we were doing what it took to win. This has been the way our season has gone. It is a tough way to see it end" Liberty head coach Jeff Alder "First and foremost, I have great respect and admiration for Coach Cornish and UNC Asheville. They played hard and made us work on every play. I'm proud of the poise we showed, especially during the final 10 minutes. We never pushed the panic button. We kept playing soccer and were rewarded with two fantastic goals in the end. But this is what the tournament is about. Every game will be back and forth. Both teams deserved to win this game."