Bobcats battle to 1-1 draw with league-leading Saints

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Sophomore Ryan Gillespie (Holly Springs, N.C.) equalized 15 seconds after Limestone College netted the breakthrough late in the second half, propelling the Lees-McRae College men's soccer team to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Conference Carolinas play on Wednesday night at Tate Field.

Limestone (7-3-1, 5-0-1 CC) outshot Lees-McRae (3-8-2, 2-3-2 CC) by a 25-10 margin in the match, including a 13-4 advantage in the second half while holding an 11-0 edge in corner kicks. Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) another strong performance for the Bobcats between the pipes, recording a season-high nine saves as Tom Godfrey made three stops for the Saints.

Gillespie paced the Bobcats with his first goal of the season, while James Smith (Eastbourne, England) and Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) each tallied an assist. Alford recorded a team-high three shots in the match as Preston Shahdad (Charlotte, N.C.) added a pair of attempts.

Thomas Metzemaekers led the way for the Saints with a goal, wihle Jack Bailey chipped in an assist and a match-high seven shots. Jorge Mackenna and Thomas McCready posted five and four shots at goal, respectively, on the night.

Bailey nearly got the Saints off to a flying start on three separate occasions in the opening 15 minutes, forcing a strong save by Rusling and narrowly missing the post on two other attempts. After Limestone's Sam Orritt had a splendid effort pulled off the line in the 25th minute, the Bobcats countered with a pair of strong runs into the attacking third, forcing Godfrey into two skillful saves on attempts by Smith and Brandon Starling (Fuquay-Varina, N.C.) shortly before the interval.

The Saints continued to push the attack in the second half, outshooting the Bobcats by a 13-4 advantage in the period as McCready and Mackenna forced Rusling into a pair of deadlock-saving stops in the opening moments. Rusling would turn in perhaps the save of the season in the 84th minute, expertly punching a driven effort from Bailey over the bar to keep the Saints off the score sheet.

Scott Hudgins (Fort Myers, Fla.) nearly provided the breakthrough for the Bobcats two minutes later, breaking free of the back line on the end of a long free kick and nodding the effort just wide of the post. Metzemaekers would net the opening goal early in the 87th minute, blasting home a rebound off a cross in from Bailey to give the Saints a 1-0 advantage.

The Bobcats answered immediately following the restart, pushing down the left flank and finding the equalizer when Smith and Alford connected to set up Gillespie for a deft finish off the post, leveling the match at 1-1 less than four minutes from time.

Both teams would have several opportunities to win the match in extra time, as Metzemaekers forced a strong save from Rusling in the first period before Alford nearly provided the winner in the 106th minute, breaking free of his marker off a free kick and sending the header inches wide of the woodwork.

Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Wednesday, October 17 when the Bobcats host Lenoir-Rhyne University in non-conference action at 7 p.m. on Tate Field.

- LMC -