CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Sept. 13, 2016) – Down goes number one!
Fletcher Ekern’s (Knoxville, Tenn.) golden goal in the 92nd minute helped guide ETSU men’s soccer to its biggest win in program history, as the Buccaneers defeated the top-ranked North Carolina, 1-0, in overtime on Tuesday at Fetzer Field.
Ekern – who recorded his first goal of the season and second collegiate game-winning goal – pushed the Bucs over .500 as ETSU improved to 3-2 on the campaign, while the Tar Heels suffered their first setback and fell to 4-1. The win marked the first time in program history the Bucs have defeated a No. 1-ranked team, while ETSU has knocked off a ranked opponent six times in the last six years. The highest ranked team the Bucs previously defeated was in 2013 when the Blue and Gold beat No. 8 UAB, 1-0, in Birmingham, Ala.
“It is a huge win. Not only for the guys but the entire program. They bought into the system that we wanted to play tonight. I give our boys credit. They fought hard and found a way to get the winner at the end,” said head coach Bo Oshoniyi.
Despite being out-shot, 16-8, the Bucs’ defense kept battling and sophomore goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland (Chester, U.K.) made three outstanding saves to register his seventh career shutout.
From first touch in overtime, UNC maintained most of the possession, but after a clearance by ETSU, the Bucs worked up the field connecting passes and putting pressure on the Tar Heels.
Working up the right side, sophomore midfielder Cameron Woodfin (Old Hickory, Tenn.) flicked the ball to Ekern inside the box. With a man on Ekern’s right, he tapped the ball past James Pyle – the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Week – for the golden goal.
ETSU had chances early to get on the board in the 16th and 27th minutes. Mitchell Cecatiello (Pascagoula, Miss.) took two shots off counter-attacks. His first shot was saved by Pyle, and the second attempt sailed over the cross bar.
Going into halftime, ETSU found itself in the game despite being outshot 8-3 (2-1 on goal).
After intermission, the Bucs had another scoring opportunity when Serge Gomis (Dakar, Senegal) drew a foul and took the free kick just a yard outside of the UNC box in the 72nd minute. The shot narrowly missed the frame to keep the score level.
North Carolina pressured ETSU’s backline the entire night, but both centrebacks - Chase Clack (Memphis, Tenn.) and Joe Pickering (East Sussex, England) - stopped every UNC scoring chance. The outside backs for ETSU - Ben Holt (Knoxville, Tenn.), Warren Austin (Kingpsort, Tenn.), and Charles Blankenship (Memphis, Tenn.) - defended well by keeping UNC’s possessions wide throughout the match.
“I think truly it was just our grit defensively. It was the mental toughness of our group by working hard. Jonny makes a couple great saves, and Chase and Joe were rock solid in the back along with Ben and Warren. All together it was just a great team effort,” said Oshoniyi.
“Coach Bo and Coach Lilly did a great job preparing us this entire week. The boys were excited to come out here and compete with the highest level there is,” said Clack. “I think what work best defensively was having constant communication throughout the back line. It started up top actually with our forwards having a presence.”
Ekern led the team in shots with three with two on goal, and Joao Ramalho (Monte Santo, Brazil) and Cecatiello had a pair of shots on the night. Woodfins’ assist marked his second of the season.
The Buccaneers next match will be at home versus UNC Asheville on Sunday, Sept. 18. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Summers-Taylor Stadium.
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For more information on Buccaneer men’s soccer, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s soccer page.