BANNER ELK, NC--The Lees-McRae College Bobcats defeated the Lander University Bearcats 1-0 Saturday evening in the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship game at Tate Field. The Bobcats, ranked number two in the country, improve their record to 21-1-1 with the win and earn a trip to the NCAA Championships Elite Eight for the first time in program history. The Bearcats, ranked #19 in the country, finish the season with a 14-5-2 record.
The Bobcats, the top ranked offensive team in the country at 3.62 goals a game, came out hard from the opening whistle. Much of the game's first ten minutes was played on the attack, however the Bearcats defense held a tight back line throughout the half and goalkeeper Garret Daum (Bartonville, TX) managed to keep the Bobcats off of the board. As the play continued, each team stepped up the physical side of things, neither willing to give an inch. After avenging a Peach Belt Conference Championship game loss to Clayton State in the first round, Lander had ideas of making amends for the regular season loss to the Bobcats, finding their stride midway through the half and generating chances on the Bobcats goal. First Team All Conference Carolinas goalkeeper Sean Paradise (North Point, FL) was equal to the task, also keeping the Bearcats off the board as the teams went to halftime tied at zero.
The second half saw the Bobcats come out harder than the first, hungry for the victory. After outshooting the Bearcats 4-3 in the first, Lees-McRae managed to pin the Bearcats inside their own end for much of the second, finding the frame on seven of ten shots and creating opportunities, but failing to capitalize. During the 84th minute, the offensive onslaught paid off as Conference Carolinas and Daktronics Southeast Region Player of the Year Berin Boracic (Orlando, FL) crossed the ball into the 18 yard box with traffic in front of Daum. Jonny Bownes (Worksop, England) would send a header to Tom Brailsford (Rotherham, England), who in full stride beat Daum to send the home crowd into a frenzy. The Bobcats defense would hold up for just over six minutes longer, earning their thirteenth shutout of the season, and preserving the one goal win.
Brailsford, named to the Daktronics Southeast Region First Team earlier in the week, picked up his second goal of the season, and first game winner of his career. The shutout was Paradise' eleventh of the year and third consecutive, running his current streak to just over 281 minutes.
"The support tonight from the home crowd was amazing," stated third year Head Coach Chris Whalley. "The boys can really feed off it; their support tonight from start to finish was great! We're extremely appreciative."
Bownes, Paradise, Matt Lacey (Norwich, England), Sam Sharples (London, England) and Lee Squires (Sheffield, England) were all named to the NCAA Southeast Regional All Tournament Team, while Nick Cooke (Chesterfield, England), Drew Courtney (Lookout Mountain, GA), Ryan Thorman (Bayport, NY), Christian Mason (Osaka, Japan) represented the Bearcats. Jonny Lara of Clayton State and Chad Pinnick of Queens rounded out the all tournament team, representing the regional semifinalists respectively.
Bownes also took home the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the tournament award while Squires was named Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
The win was the sixteenth consecutive for the Bobcats, the longest win streak in program history and second over Lander this season. The Bobcats topped the Bearcats 3-1 at Lander October 10th.
The Bobcats will now await until the conclusion of the Sweet Sixteen tomorrow afternoon, with five Regional Championship games on tap. Monday afternoon, the NCAA will announce the pairings and sites, yet to be determined, of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships Elite Eight.
Post Game Comments:
"There were two very good teams out there, but I think we played a little better and wanted it a little more. We really took the game to them in the second half, I was extremely pleased with the way the boys elevated their game. I am proud of Tom burying the winner for us; the guy works hard day in and day out; it's nice for him to be rewarded with the goal. Give Lander credit, they played a tough game. We knew we'd have our work cut out for us. We'll have to continue to elevate our play in our next game, because things don't get any easier."
- Bobcats Head Coach Chris Whalley
""I thought we deserved to win this game tonight. It was a
tough game, but if you work hard things will start to pay off, and
I think we wanted this a little more. We're not taking it for
granted. It was a tough game and Lander is a tough opponent to get
past. We've got to continue working hard and going game by
- Bobcats JR Captain Matt Lacey
"Obviously I am happy to get the winner (goal), but credit goes
to the team. It doesn't matter who scores the goals. Sometimes
you've got to take chances. We took one late in the game, and it
- Bobcats FR Tom Brailsford
"First I would like to thanks Lees-McRae College for hosting
this event. They've done an outstanding job, been very hospitable
and should be commended. Tonight was a great game, both teams
battled hard throughout. We knew it would be a one goal game, and
they got it. I'd like to congratulate Lees-McRae on the Regional
Championship and the great year that they're having. They should
do well. This is our third straight year in the NCAA Tournament, I
am very proud of this team and hope to be back again next year.
The seniors on this team have combined to elevate their games to
help develop this program into one that is consistently ranked in
the top 20 in the nation year in and year out and have all matured
into fine young men. I am very proud of them."
- Bearcats Head Coach Van Taylor
"Very disappointed with the end result, we battled hard and knew
it was going to be a one goal game. Give credit to Lees-McRae; we
wish them all the best in through the rest of the tournament."
- Bearcats SR Captain Nick Cooke
PICTURED TOP LEFT: Tom Brailsford
PICTURED BOTTOM LEFT: Jonny Bownes
PICTURED BOTTOM RIGHT: Berin Boracic