Jacksonville, Fla. - The Lipscomb Bisons claimed their first-ever ASUN Conference Men's Soccer Championship with a thrilling 2-1 victory against Jacksonville on Saturday night. Lipscomb advances to its first NCAA Tournament with tonight's win.
Eduardo Reza was the hero of the night as the midfielder scored the game-winning goal in the 69th minute when he calmly converted a penalty kick into the bottom left corner past the outstretched arms of Jacksonville goalie Patrick Harding. The Dolphins pushed for an equalizer in the final 20 minutes and pressured the Bisons defense, while Lipscomb had a couple of opportunities to put the match away down the stretch. Christopher Zappia was credited with two saves for the Bisons, while Harding made four saves to close out his season.
The Bisons were in control in the opening minutes as the rain came down strong at Southern Oak Stadium. On the slick surface, Lipscomb's front trio of Ivan Sakou, Logan Paynter and Kyle Smith put together good combination play to create some opportunities. Jacksonville's best chance in the first 20 minutes came off the boot of Igor Ferreira, but he was unable to control his left-footed strike. Moments later, Tournament MVP Sakou got on the end of a Smith pass, swiveled in the box but pulled his shot inches wide of the near post. The Bisons had a couple of other good looks, and found the opening goal in the 30th minute. Sakou played a nice through ball down the right side to an open Paynter, who dribbled into the box and ripped a shot from 15 yards out. Harding made a diving save, but the rebound fell kindly to Smith who buried the ball in the back of the net.
The Dolphins looked for a response, and Sam Gardner tested Zappia in the 34th minute, but the Bisons keeper was up to the task. In the 38th minute, Lipscomb nearly doubled its lead when Ryan Birchfield collected the ball 25 yards out and volleyed a looping shot towards goal. The ball bounced off the crossbar as Harding looked to have it covered. Neither side was able to produce any other quality goal-scoring chances as the Bisons took a 1-0 halftime lead.
Jacksonville needed only 16 minutes to level the score in the second half. Diego Diaz picked up a loose ball 30 yards from goal and dribbled towards the Bisons box. After a fortuitous bounce, Ignazio Muccilli found himself wide open in the box and slotted the ball home to send the Dolphin bench and crowd into a frenzy. Jacksonville looked to carry that momentum forward as they pushed for a second goal, but a Lipscomb counter-attack in the 68th minute led to the eventual game-winning strike. Paynter was running into the box, and as he tried to loop the ball over the Dolphin defender, a handball was called leading to a Lipscomb penalty kick. Senior Eduardo Reza stepped up to the penalty spot and scored to make it 2-1 just beyond the reach of Dolphin goalie Harding.
With the Dolphins trailing for a second time, they continued to press and push more people into the attack. That left gaps in the back that Lipscomb nearly took advantage of, but Harding made some critical saves to keep the match at 2-1. Jacksonville's best opportunity to send the match into extra time came in the 87th minute, when Allan Morgan was left open at the top of the box, but couldn't keep his shot on frame.
The Bisons now await their first NCAA Tournament match next week. The 2017 NCAA Men's Soccer College Cup Selection Show will be on Monday, November 13th at 1 PM ET. Fans can tune into NCAA.com to watch the event live.
2017 ASUN Men's Soccer All-Tournament Team
- Ivan Sakou, Lipscomb - MVP
- Logan Paynter, Lipscomb
- Ivan Alvarado, Lipscomb
- Ryan Birchfield, Lipscomb
- Eduardo Reza, Lipscomb
- Ignazio Muccilli, Jacksonville
- Igor Ferreira, Jacksonville
- Kai Bennett, Jacksonville
- Dennis Zapata, FGCU
- Pablo Jimenez, NJIT
- Deniz Dogan, Stetson
No. 6 Lipscomb vs. No. 5 Jacksonville ASUN Men's Soccer Championship Notes
- The Bisons become the first No. 6-seeded team to win the ASUN Men's Soccer Championship. Lipscomb, which was playing in its first-ever ASUN Men's Soccer Championship Final, will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time next week.
- Ivan Sakou scored three goals in three ASUN Championship matches to earn MVP honors. The senior striker has eight goals on the season, trailing only Logan Paynter (9) for the team lead.
- Ivan Alvarado, a four-time First Team All-Conference selection, added his second All-Tournament team recognition to his outstanding resume. His teammate, Logan Paynter, also was recognized on the All-Tournament team for the second time in his Bisons career.
- The Dolphins end the season with a 6-10-1 record after tonight's match. Kai Bennett earned All-Tournament team honors for the second-straight season.