Liberty Flames - 2007 Big South Men's Soccer Champions
For the first time in the program history, the Liberty men's soccer team captured the Big South Men's Soccer Championship, Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field on the campus of Winthrop University. The No. 2 seed Liberty Flames scored two late first half goals, and then used strong defensive play the rest of the way, en route to a 2-1 victory over No. 4 seed Radford Highlanders.
In five conference championship appearances, the victory marks the first time Liberty has claimed the title and received the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship. First round games will be played on Nov. 23 or Nov. 24. The Flames will find out their opponent when the 2007 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship bracket is announced, tomorrow between 5:30 and 6 p.m. on ESPNews.
Liberty improves to 13-4-2 on the season, while Radford ends its year with an 11-9-0 record. It was the second meeting between Liberty and Radford in the championship game. The two programs met in the 1999 title contest, and the Highlanders won in a penalty kick shootout following a scoreless draw after two overtimes.
The Flames' 13 wins are the most by a Liberty men's soccer squad since the 1999 team posted a 14-2-1 mark. The victory total is tied for third all-time in program history, behind the 1999 and 1985 teams, who each won 14 contests.
Radford jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage in the contest's seventh minute. Midfielder Josh McCrary took the ball down the right side of the field and put a crossing shot into the left corner of the net for his second goal of the season at 6:38. Both of the midfielder's markers came during the Big South Championship.
The Flames evened the score at 33:54, and took the lead less than two minutes later. On the third corner kick attempt by Liberty over a 3:10 span, the Flames converted to tie the contest at one goal apiece. Off the corner kick by Joshua Boateng (MF/F, Accra, Ghana), forward Justin Willoughby (Sr., Greenville, N.C.) sent a crossing pass in front of the net, which defender Douglas Nyame (Jr., D, Kumasi, Ghana) headed into the top of the net for his first goal of the season.
Moments later, after receiving a pass from forward Adrian Bumbut (Sr., Zalau, Romania), midfielder Cameron Chastain (Jr., Upton, Md.) found himself one-on-one with Radford keeper, Zach Roszel, on the right side of the field. The midfielder sidestepped the keeper and put his game-winning shot attempt into the bottom left-hand corner of the net for a 2-1 Liberty advantage at intermission. In the second half, the Liberty defense took over, making its one-goal advantage stand. The Flames limited the Highlanders to four shots in the second half. Only one of the four shots forced a save from Liberty goalkeeper Paul Gilbert (Fr., Rockvale, Tenn.), named the 2007 Big South Men's Soccer Freshman of the Year, this past Wednesday.
Radford outshot Liberty, 9-6, in the contest. Both teams attempted five shots each in the first, while the Highlanders held a 4-1 edge in the second half. Radford also had a 9-5 corner kick advantage.
Gilbert recorded two saves in the Liberty net, while Roszel also made two saves for the Highlanders.
Liberty's Boateng was named Tournament MVP for his play in Liberty's three wins. Joining Boateng on the 2007 Big South Championship All-Tournament Team were Liberty teammates Andrew Kappler (Sr., D, Bear, Del.), Willoughby and Chastain.
Joshua Boateng, Liberty (MVP) Cameron Chastain, Liberty Andrew Kappler, Liberty Justin Willoughby, Liberty Paul Caruso, Radford Davorian Husadjinovic, Radford Josh McCrary, Radford Kyle Russell, Coastal Carolina Dane Whitman, Coastal Carolina John Gilkerson, Winthrop Otto Loewy, Winthrop Will Quarles, VMI Scott Szymanski, UNC Asheville Michael Saryee, High Point
QUOTES Liberty head coach Jeff Alder "I said this since the beginning of the season. God took a group of ordinary men and did something extraordinary. I really feel he prepared us for this all year. I am very proud of my team. Radford was a great opponent and are a very well coached team. In the second half, Radford came out flying, but we were able to hold to our lead." Radford head coach Spencer Smith "For 88 minutes I thought we played a great game, but lost concentration for maybe two minutes. Give Liberty credit. They are definitely a worthy champion. We are proud of our efforts, just couldn't get that equalizer. Our guys played good soccer. I am really proud of how they played the whole tournament. With a little luck today we could have got that equalizer."