BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Jack Winter lifted a soft header over the keeper and into the back of the net with less than a minute remaining in the first extra time period Friday, notching the breakthrough to lead the No. 2 Lynn University men's soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Lees-McRae College on Tate Field to open the season.
Lynn (1-0) controlled the run of play for much of the afternoon, outshooting Lees-McRae (0-1) by a 16-3 margin, including an 8-3 advantage in the second half. The Bobcats battled in midfield throughout the match, holding the Fighting Knights off the scoreboard with tenacity and grit while forcing Lynn to fight for every ball.
Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) was outstanding for the Bobcats, making several acrobatic saves in the second half to keep Lees-McRae deadlocked with the Knights at 0-0. Rusling totaled seven stops on the afternoon, while Matt DiCerbo made one save for Lynn. James Smith (Eastbourne, England), Scott Hudgins (Fort Myers, Fla.), and Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) each tallied a shot for the Bobcats.
The two teams battled throughout regulation, remaining deadlocked at 0-0 through the first 90 minutes despite glorious scoring chances on both sides. Julian Halder had perhaps the best scoring chance of regulation for Lynn, firing a rocket of a shot toward the upper 90 and forcing Rusling to leave his feet and punch the ball over the bar for a corner kick in the 51st minute.
Winter and Roberto Cadilhe forced Rusling into several saves over the next 20 minutes, with the perhaps the Bobcats' best scoring chance from Smith in the 81st minute when the sophomore sent a brilliant free kick headed toward the top corner, forcing DiCerbo into a desperation save to keep the score knotted at 0-0. Rusling made a pair of clutch saves down the stretch as well, sending the match into extra time scoreless.
The Knights dictated proceedings for much of the extra time period, outshooting the Bobcats by a 4-0 margin. Lynn found the breakthrough with 43 seconds left on the clock, when a free kick from Halder deflected off the wall at the top of the area and fell to Winter in the six-yard box, putting Winter in perfect position to nod the finish over the keeper's outstretched arm and into the corner for the winner.
"We gave it everything and matched one of the best teams in the country for the whole game," said Bobcat head coach Lee Squires after the match. "We must learn to keep our concentration, especially late in games and from set pieces, but if we play like that for the rest of the season we will be fine. It's important now to bounce back in the right manner against Catawba on Sunday."
Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Sunday when the Bobcats travel to Salisbury, N.C. to take on Catawba College in a Southeast Region matchup at 7 p.m.
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