Success for the seniors

11 senior men’s soccer players step off the pitch for the final time at Osborne

The Liberty Flames men’s soccer team (6-9-1, 2-5-1) cruised to a senior day victory at Osborne Stadium, knocking off the Presbyterian College Blue Hose (0-15-1, 0-7-1), 5-1, Oct. 31, to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Blessed — Blessing Tahuona played his last home game. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Blessed — Blessing Tahuona played his last home game. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Four different seniors scored, including the final goal from Kurt Meyers, a redshirt-sophomore who will graduate this year and is unsure of whether he will return to the team as a graduate student, hence his participation in senior day.

Head Coach Jeff Alder said he was proud of the seniors and what they had accomplished. He especially highlighted their loyalty to the program and each other as key components of the
graduating class.

“One of our core values is loyalty, and I think that describes this group of seniors,” Alder said. “They have been loyal to God. They have been loyal to Liberty. They have been loyal to our coaching staff, and they have been loyal to each other. Their character, their Christian testimony and their willingness to serve have been off the charts.”

The rout began in the 13th minute with senior defender Tim Harbison scoring from the top of the box on a cross from senior attacker Blessing Tahuona.

The Flames took a 2-0 lead into halftime on senior forward Sachem Wilson’s team-high sixth goal of the season in the 23rd minute. Senior defender Connor Fleming sent the ball high to the right side of the box that senior defender Jamie Foxwell hit to Wilson for the score.

With a 2-0 lead at the half, Alder told his team to play with more vigor and that it was critical to get a third goal.

Tahuona delivered that third goal in the 59th minute after receiving a long pass from junior midfielder Kyle Carr. Tahuona stopped the ball on a dime inside the box, causing the defender to go sliding past, and placed the ball in the left corner just past the keeper’s outstretched fingertips, sending the crowd into a roar of approval.

“(Tahuona) was able to get through and score that third goal and broke (Presbyterian’s) spirits,” Alder said.

The Blue Hose finally got on the board in the 68th minute on a goal from midfielder Steven Huppe. The Flames lost possession of the ball on a clearing attempt near the top of their box, and Huppe netted the lone goal for the Blue Hose.

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Brady Mazzei, entering the game on a late substitution, extended the Flames lead to 4-1 on a rocket of a free kick from roughly 25 yards out that flew straight past the goalie to the far post in the 70th minute. Insanity ensued for the Flames and the fans as Mazzei excitedly ran to his bench to celebrate the first goal of his Liberty career.

Meyers also recorded the first goal of his career on a pass to the top right of the 18-yard box from Mazzei, his former roommate, that he one-timed up and over the keeper into the net in the 81st minute of the contest to give the Flames the 5-1 lead. The five goals were the most the Flames have scored in a game all season.

“I thought our movement was good,” Alder said. “We created some chances and ultimately we were able to put (Presbyterian) away.”

After a rough season, the seniors left Osborne Stadium with many emotions, but were ultimately happy they went out with a bang.

“We have been through a lot of heartbreaks (and) a lot of frustration,” Wilson said. “We love each other so it is going to be tough saying goodbye to these guys. It has been tough, (but) it has been a pleasure. It feels good to leave our house the way we want it.”

A ceremony before the game honored the Flames 11 seniors, all of which received framed jerseys.

The Flames will visit Big South opponent Campbell in the last game of the regular season Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. The Flames are currently eighth in the conference and will make the Big South tournament if the standings remain as they are.

DAY is a sports reporter.

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