Bobcats knock off Erskine, 3-1, to reach conference final

Box score

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Freshman James Smith (Eastbourne, England) tallied a goal and an assist to lead the second-seeded Lees-McRae College men's soccer team to a 3-1 victory over sixth-seeded Erskine College in the semifinal round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament on Friday night on Tate Field.

Lees-McRae (14-4-1) outshot Erskine (10-8-1) by a 21-10 margin, including an 11-5 advantage in the first half, while holding a narrow 6-4 edge in corner kicks. Smith paced the Bobcats with one goal and one assist, while Scott Hudgins (Fort Myers, Fla.) and Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) each found the back of the net for LMC, as James Galvani (High Wycombe, England) added an assist.

Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) posted five saves for the Bobcats, while Erskine' s Roberto De La Vina made nine stops for the Flying Fleet. Randy Johnson tallied the lone goal for Erskine, as Jonathan Rutter added an assist.

Smith opened the scoring early in the 18th minute, taking a centering ball from Galvani and finding the bottom corner with a finish through a defender's legs to give Lees-McRae an early 1-0 lead. Hudgins doubled the advantage to 2-0 midway through the 25th minute burying a loose ball in the upper 90 for his third goal of the season. Alford pushed the margin to 3-0 in the 41st minute with his seventh goal of the season, nodding home a free header off a Smith corner.

The Bobcats held the three-goal lead until the closing minutes of regulation, when Johnson cut the margin to 3-1 off a cross from Rutter to equal the final score line.

Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Sunday when the second-seeded Bobcats travel to Hartsville, S.C. to take on No. 5 and top-seeded Coker College in the Conference Carolinas Tournament final at 1 p.m. The Bobcats won the teams' regular season meeting by a 1-0 score line in an extra time thriller.

- LMC -