Midfielder Alex Verville and the Flames host Howard and Winthrop this week.
The Liberty Flames (3-1-1, 0-0-1 BSC) will continue their four-game home stretch by hosting the Howard Bison (2-4), Tuesday, followed by a visit from the Winthrop Eagles (5-2-0), Friday for a Big South Conference contest. Both Tuesday's non-conference tilt and Friday's conference match are scheduled for 7 p.m. How to Follow the Flames Live stats for both contests will be available on LibertyFlames.com by clicking the live stats link on the men's soccer schedule/results page or by clicking the link at the top of this page. The Series Liberty defeated Howard, 3-0, last season in Washington, D.C., in the first meeting between the two teams on the soccer pitch since 1981. The victory was the first by the Flames in the all-time series. The Bison had won all six previous meetings between the two teams. Friday will be the 28th meeting between Winthrop and Liberty. The Flames hold an 18-8-1 all-time advantage in the series. However, the past three seasons have seen the two teams play three memorable contests at the Big South Championship. In 2007 and 2006, the Eagles and Flames exchanged semifinal overtime wins on their way to conference titles. Winthrop edged Liberty, 2-1, in overtime in 2006. The Flames returned the favor in 2007, with a 1-0 overtime win in 2007. Last season, the semifinal match between the two went to penalty kicks with Winthrop advancing, 5-4. A Look at Liberty The Liberty Flames, coached by Jeff Alder (78-65-13, ninth year), opened their 2009 Big South schedule and a four-game homestand with a 0-0, two-overtime tie, with Radford this past Saturday. The shutout of the Highlanders was the Flames' third of the season and lowered Liberty's goals-against average to 0.38. In the Regional Rankings With their strong 3-1-1 start to the year, the Flames enter the week ranked 10th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America South Atlantic Poll. Defending national champion Maryland heads this week's poll. Defense Gets it Done The Liberty defense has been strong in the early going this season. Through five matches this season, the Flames have allowed only two goals and begin the week with 0.4 goals allowed per game. The mark leads the Big South Conference in the category. Also as a team, Liberty is atop the conference in goals-against average with a 0.38 GAA, and its three shutouts are tied with High Point for the Big South lead. Musing About Madero Goalkeeper Andrew Madero was between the posts for his third shutout of 2009, Saturday, in Liberty's 0-0 tie with Radford. The Tampa, Fla., native leads the Big South rankings in goals-against average with a 0.20 GAA. He also leads the conference with a .929 save percentage and is tied for the top spot with three shutouts. In addition, Madero was among the national leaders in several categories in last week's NCAA statistical report. Madero ranked 13th in goals against average and 18th in save percentage. Madero finished as the conference leader in goals-against average in 2008, recording a 0.68 GAA in eight games. In 13 career games, the Tampa, Fla. native has posted an 8-1-4 mark with a 0.51 GAA. He has also recorded six shutouts. Among Team Leaders The Flames lead the country in scoring offense in the latest NCAA statistical report released last Tuesday. Liberty's 4.0 goals per game average through four games had paced the nation, with fellow conference member and Friday's opponent, Winthrop, third with a 3.2 goals per game average. In addition, Jeff Alder's squad was among the country's elite in goals-against average with 0.5 average. The Flames rank 24th in the country in the statistical category. The mark, along with scoring offense, also leads the Big South Conference. The Big South Beat The Big South Conference regular season got underway Saturday, with Radford tying Liberty, and goes into full swing this week. Besides Winthrop and Liberty, Friday, Gardner-Webb, who has gone 3-1 to begin its season, will visit two conference teams this week. The Bulldogs will square off with Presbyterian, 1-3, Wednesday night, and Radford, 2-2-1, Saturday night, for Big South contests. A Look at Howard Howard, under the guidance of second-year coach Michael Lawrence (3-20-2), enters Tuesday's non-conference match-up with the Flames off a 3-1 victory over Marist in its home opener, Sunday. With the win, the Bison have won two-straight contests after dropping their first four games of 2009. Freshman forward Phillip Borde has been a welcome addition to the Howard roster. The forward leads the Bison with three goals and three assists for nine points. Defender Matt Marshall is second on the Bison with two goals and an assist for five points. Senior goalkeeper Victor Thomas has been in the net for every minute of the 2009 season for the Bison. Thomas has posted a 1.67 goals-against average and one shutout through six games. Howard, a member of the Atlantic Soccer Conference (ASC), has not shared a common opponent with Liberty yet this season, but will meet future Flames opponents in fellow Big South member VMI and ASC member Longwood. A Look at Winthrop The defending Big South champion, Winthrop Eagles, are off to a strong start with a 5-2 mark in 2009. After opening the season with a 3-1 loss at N.C. State, the Eagles ran off five consecutive victories, before falling to Charlotte, Sunday, 4-2. Winthrop was picked by the Big South men's soccer coaches as the preseason favorite to once again capture the conference title. The Eagles finished 2008 with a 15-6-1 overall record and went 6-2-1 in Big South play under head coach Rich Posipanko (210-166-26, 20 years). Entering the week, Winthrop leads the conference with 21 goals. Individually, forward Matt Skonicki leads the conference with eight goals and 19 points. He has scored two goals in a game three times this season and paces the Big South in game-winning goals with three. Midfielder Michael Luk is also among the conference leaders in scoring with three goals and four assists for 10 points. His point total currently ranks him fourth in the Big South. Goalkeeper Enrique Miranda has logged every minute between the posts for the Eagles this season. The freshman will enter Friday's contest with a 2.29 goals-against average in 630 minutes of play.
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