Men’s soccer bounces back

Liberty avoids storm and earns the statement win it needed early in season

Neither looming inclement weather nor the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Keydets could stop the Liberty Flames men’s soccer team as it shut out the Keydets 3-0, Saturday Sept. 12.

With thunderstorms projected to hit the region by mid Saturday afternoon, the game’s kickoff was moved to noon. It did not matter to the Flames, as they outscored, outshot and outplayed the Keydets the entire game.

Control — Junior Dre Diouf plays in only his third game as a Flame. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Control — Junior Dre Diouf plays in only his third game as a Flame. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

“It was a great effort, a team effort,” Liberty Coach Jeff Alder said. “We talked about it, our resolve and our resiliency was off the charts.”

The Flames first goal came just 10 minutes into the first half. Freshman forward Kevin Mendoza scored off an assist from senior forward Sachem Wilson. Wilson dropped the ball to Mendoza, who took the ball in stride and planted a shot in the lower right corner of the goal.

“I thought we were able to get behind them a couple of times and create some chances,” Alder said. “We scored a fantastic goal.”

Liberty’s next goal came early in the second, 54 minutes into the game. Junior midfielder Kyle Carr kicked a long ball through VMI’s defense, and the ball was picked up by Wilson. Wilson was one-on-one with VMI’s goalkeeper, and he placed the ball in the lower right corner for the score. The goal gave the Flames a 2-0 lead.

“It was a good ball by Kyle Carr,” Wilson said. “I was able to catch the defenders a little off guard there.”

Later in the second half, 74 minutes into the game, VMI committed a foul on Liberty in the box. Senior midfielder Tim Harbison took the penalty kick and scored, icing the cake for the Flames and giving Liberty the 3-0 lead.

It was a strong game for Liberty offensively, as they outshot the Keydets with 21 shots on goal to VMI’s 6.

“VMI’s a good team,” Wilson said. “They work really hard. For us to be able to kick the ball the way we did … I think that’s a big confidence booster.”

Alder and Wilson both praised VMI for a hard fought effort.

“They still fought and competed,” Alder said. “They’re VMI — they’re well coached, they’re organized, and they’re always going to work.”

Saturday’s win was a morale booster for a team that desperately needed it, coming off a crushing loss in double overtime to Marshall Sept. 8.

Liberty was without the services of senior forward Blessing Tahuona, who received a red card in the game against Marshall.

“We talked about it from day one,” Coach Alder said. “If we lose a guy, the next guy has got to step up … everybody just had to give a little bit more.”

The Flames will ride the momentum from Saturday’s victory into a difficult three game stretch on the road, away from Osborne Stadium. Liberty will face Howard, James Madison and East Tennessee State before returning home to face Winthrop Saturday Sept. 26th.

Husker is a sports reporter.

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