The Radford Highlanders rode a fast start to a 4-2 victory over the Liberty Flames in the final regular season match for both teams, Wednesday at Osborne Stadium.
Forward Tresor Mbuyu scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the Big South contest, while midfielder Kevin Mendoza netted a penalty kick and also assisted on Mbuyu's goal.
Liberty finishes the regular season with a 5-3 record in Big South play and a 10-5-1 mark overall. Radford moves to 5-1-2 in conference and 10-4-3 overall.
Entering the contest leading the Big South in goals-against average (0.78), the Flames allowed four goals in a match for the first time this season and three or more for only the second.
Radford took advantage of two defensive miscues to take a quick 2-0 lead less than 20 minutes into the contest. The Highlanders scored their first goal of the evening during the eighth minute of play. Stepping in front a failed clearing attempt by the Flames, midfielder Victor Vails dropped the ball to the right side of the field for fellow midfielder Jakob Strandsater, who found the net from 25 yards out for his third goal of the season and an early Radford advantage.
After Highlander goalkeeper Nicolas Mertzokat turned away two shots by Mbuyu and Liberty midfielder Matthew Zaczyk, Radford's pressure led to the visitors' second goal of the contest during the 18th minute. After causing a turnover by a Flames' defender, Strandsater sent a pass across the face of the goal, where Kieran Roberts flicked it back from the end line with his heel to Evan Szklennik for his first goal of the season and a 2-0 edge.
During the 24th minute, Mendoza and Mbuyu got free behind the Radford defense. Mendoza pushed a pass to Mbuyu for shot, but his attempt to the near right corner just missed the post.
Radford extended its lead during the 28th minute. Off a scramble for a loose ball in the midfield, the Highlanders pushed the ball ahead for Vails. He dumped it right to the center of the field for Strandsater, who scored for the second time in the contest and the fourth time his season, to give the visitors a 3-0 advantage.
Liberty cut into its deficit during the 34th minute. Mendoza sent a pass into the left side of the 18-yard box, putting Mbuyu behind the Radford keeper Mertzokat for a strike into the far right corner of the net, trimming the Highlanders' lead to 3-1.
However, in a wide-open first half in which Radford outshot Liberty, 13-6, the visitors closed out the half with a goal off a set piece in the 39th minute. Midfielder Frazier Colmer lofted a corner kick into the center of the box, where forward Sivert Daehlie headed the ball into the top of the goal for his 12th of the year and a 4-1 Radford advantage at halftime.
Liberty tried to climb back into the contest in the second half. With goalkeeper James Knoebel making five saves, the Flames created several scoring opportunities.
Liberty sliced its deficit during the 66th minute. After being pull down in the box by a Radford defender, Mendoza scored the ensuing penalty kick for what proved to be the final score of 4-2.
Six minutes later, Liberty received a free kick after Highlander goalkeeper Mertzokat handled the ball with his hands just outside of the box. Mendoza sent a bending free kick to the far post, only to have a Highlander kick it out over the end line. Radford then cleared the Liberty corner kick, preserving its two-goal edge.
The Highlanders outshot the Flames, 21-13, and held a 7-4 advantage on corner kicks.
Knoebel made a season-high seven saves for Liberty, while Radford's Mertzokat recorded four.
With the regular season complete, Liberty awaits the announcement of the pairings and seedings for the upcoming Big South Men's Soccer Championship. The Flames will host an opponent to be determined later in the quarterfinals at Osborne Stadium on Sunday. Match time is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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