BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Mount Olive College men's soccer team converted from the penalty spot in the closing seconds of the 67th minute, and held off a furious rally by Lees-McRae College en route to a hard-fought 1-0 win in Conference Carolinas play Saturday evening on Tate Field.
With the win, Mount Olive (6-8-3, 4-4-2 CC) records the program's first victory against Lees-McRae (3-11-3, 2-6-2 CC) since 1994. Lees-McRae outshot Mount Olive by a 16-6 margin in the match, including a 10-3 advantage in the second half as Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) made a pair of stellar saves in the contest.
Prior to kickoff, Lees-McRae honored senior John Williams (Rutherfordton, N.C.) for his contributions to the men's soccer program in a pre-match ceremony as part of its senior day festivities.
Sophomore Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) paced the Bobcats with five attempts at goal in the match, consistently ghosting into the area to trouble the Trojan keeper. Preston Shahdad (Charlotte, N.C.) added a trio of chances on frame as the Bobcats held an 8-3 edge in corner kicks on the night.
Ramon Gallardo registered the lone goal of the match for Mount Olive, finding the frame with each of his three efforts as Kyle Lavender and Nick Bernsdorf combined to keep a clean sheet with two saves.
Lees-McRae nearly got off to a flying start in the ninth minute, when Bernsdorf made a terrific save to parry an effort from Shahdad to preserve the deadlock. Rusling would answer the call himself in the22nd minute, denying an attempt by Gallardo.
Alford and Scott Hudgins (Fort Myers, Fla.) both came within inches of netting the breakthrough in the 39th and 40th minutes as part of a furious attack by the Bobcats, as each of their attempts was parried away from goal by the Trojan defense.
The Bobcats thought they had the breakthrough in the 63rd minute, when James Abraham's (Maidstone, England) header off a long free kick from Rusling was called back for offside. Mount Olive would take advantage of a hand ball in the area in the 67th minute, breaking the deadlock through Gallardo when the junior midfielder converted from the penalty spot to give the Trojans a 1-0 advantage.
Lees-McRae would push forward with relentless fervor over the final 20 minutes in search of an equalizer, launching eight shots toward goal in that span. The Bobcats nearly leveled proceedings in the 84th minute, when Lavender made a leaping save on his line to keep Williams' long-range effort from finding the side netting.
The Bobcats are expected to return 19 lettermen from this year's squad, including rising seniors Rusling, Hudgins, James Galvani (High Wycombe, England), Brandon Meade (Mocksville, N.C.), and Chris DeSanto (Greensboro, N.C.).
- LMC -