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UNCG opens SoCon Tournament with win

Senior Reporter

Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 18:11

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The Spartans got two goals from Hakan Ilhan, including the game winner in overtime, to score a dramatic 2-1 win over the Georgia Southern Eagles in the first round of the Southern Conference Tournament at UNCG Soccer Stadium. The win boots the Spartans record to 10-5-4 overall on the season.

Georgia Southern got the first good chance of the match just eight minutes in, when freshman Ethan LaPan came in alone on Spartan keeper Peyton Ford. Ford came out to challenge LaPan, which forced LaPan to shoot the ball wide of the net, keeping the game scoreless in the early going. Just seven minutes later, the Spartans got their first real chance of the game, but Spartans forward Ilhan also missed the net on a shot from just outside the box. The Spartans had another great chance a few minutes later, but freshman Brian Graham’s shot trickled across the goal line and hit the post.

Just after Graham’s shot off the post, Ross Burki did the same for the Spartans, as he fired a harmless shot from far out on Georgia Southern keeper Neal Bates. Bates misjudged the shot, but was bailed out by the left post, keeping the game scoreless mid-way through the first half. Neither team generated much offense after Berki’s chance, as the two teams went into halftime locked in a scoreless tie. Georgia Southern only managed one shot in the entire first, as they played much of the first half on defense. The Spartans had nine shots total in the half.

Both teams traded great opportunities to start the second half, but keepers Ford and Neal Bates both stood tall, as they had the entire game, to keep the game scoreless. Bates’ best saves of the night came with 19 minutes remaining in regulation, when he stop Adam Shore on a shot from the top of the box. The rebound came right out to Brian Graham, who fired a shot from point blank range. Bates came up huge again, making a diving save on Graham to keep the Spartans off the board.

The Spartans got a huge break with 12:47 remaining, when  Ilhan was fouled inside the box, which immediately gave the Spartans a penalty kick. Ilhan, who has been one of the Spartans best players all year, didn’t miss, burying his ninth goal of the year up high on Bates to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

The Spartans lead did not last long, as six minutes later, Ethan LaPan buried a shot into the top left corner on  Ford to tie the game at 1-1. LaPan picked the ball up after the Spartans had cleared it away after a Georgia Southern throw in, and in one motion fired the ball on net and beat Ford up high for the goal. LaPan’s goal was unassisted.

LaPan’s goal meant that the two teams would have to go to sudden death overtime to decide the winner. The first overtime did not last long as  Ilhan came up big once again, scoring just 3:07 into the first overtime frame to give the Spartans a hard fought 2-1 win. The goal was Ilhan’s second goal of the night and his tenth of the season. Will Mack and Aaron Reifschneider got the assists on Ilhan’s game winner.

The Spartans will now travel to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, home of the College of Charleston, to take part in the semi-finals of the Southern Conference Tournament. They will take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Friday at 5:00 p.m. Despite the Mounatineers having a .500 record for much of the season, Spartans head coach Justin Maullin knows Friday’s game is going to be a tough one. “They’re very difficult. They counter very well, they have very crafty, wide players and we have to defend against that. There’s no easy games.” 

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