WINGATE, N.C. --- Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.) scored midway through the first half, and Yago Xavier (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) added the eventual match-winner in the 57th minute to lead the Lees-McRae College men's soccer team to a 2-1 upset of No. 5 Wingate University in Southeast region play on Wednesday evening.
Lees-McRae (1-3) put together a complete team effort, withstanding a relentless Wingate (3-1) attack while limiting the Bulldogs to just five attempts on frame in a superb defensive performance. The Bulldogs held a 20-7 advantage in total shots on the night, including an 11-4 edge in the second half, as the Bobcats made the most of their opportunities by connecting on two of their three attempts on frame.
Alford found the back of the net in his second straight match, netting his eighth career goal, as Xavier opened his collegiate account and tallied his first match-winner with the same strike. Andrew Shoemaker (Cary, N.C.) and Jordan Wright (Winchburg, West Lothian, Scotland) each added an assist in the contest, as Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) stopped four of five shots on frame.
Fabio Azeredo tallied the lone goal of the match for the Bulldogs, connecting on one of his three attempts on net, as James Card took a contest-best four shots. Daniel DeGraff made one save on three shots on frame.
The match opened with a flurry of activity, with Wingate tested the Bobcat backline with six early attempts at goal, including a glancing miss off the bar by Card in the 15th minute. The Bobcats weathered the early storm, breaking the deadlock in the 28th minute when Shoemaker found Alford's head with a free kick from 40 yards out to give Lees-McRae an early 1-0 lead.
Lees-McRae continued to press the attack early in the second half, scoring a brilliant second in the 57th minute when Wright fed a perfect ball in behind to Xavier, who then delivered a clinical finish into the bottom corner to give the Bobcats a 2-0 advantage. Alford nearly pushed the margin to 3-0 in the 61st, only to be denied by a superb stop from DeGraff following an inspired run in from the flank.
Wingate would halve the margin to 2-1 in the early moments of the 67th minute, as Azeredo's perseverance paid off when his third successive effort found the back of the net following a cross in from the left flank.
The Bobcat backline proved to be the decisive factor over the final 20 minutes, denying the Bulldogs multiple chances at an equalizer en route to the program's third win over a top-25 opponent in Lee Squires' tenure at the helm.
Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Saturday when the Bobcats host Belmont Abbey College in a pivotal showdown to open their Conference Carolinas slate at 5 p.m. on Tate Field.
- LMC -