Boiling Springs, NC- The Covenant College Men's Soccer team traveled to North Carolina this past weekend to face NCAA Division I opposition in Winthrop and Gardner-Webb Universities. The Scots were without all-conference defender Josh Johnson, and several other players were battling minor injuries and illnesses as the team made the drive east to play in the Soccer for a Cure Tournament. Having replaced Clemson University in the tourney, the Scots came in as apparent underdogs in a tournament comprised of three NCAA Division I schools, some of which were nationally ranked. The opening match saw the Scots fall 5-1 to the Gardner-Webb University Bulldogs. Costly giveaways in their own defensive third and failure to clear the ball from their own box saw the Scots down 3-0 at halftime. In the second half, an unlucky deflection saw the Bulldogs take a 4-0 lead before they added a fifth moments later. Brian Stair grabbed a late consolation goal for Covenant with a nice left-footed shot from the top of the box.
The real story of the weekend, though, came from the Scot's second game against the nationally ranked Winthrop University Eagles. One night removed from their defeat to Gardner-Webb, the Scots took the field with a new formation and lineup that almost saw them come away with a victory. After surrendering two goals early in the first half, the Scots fought back with a David Pifer goal just minutes before the first half drew to a close. Freshman Colby Robbins took a quick restart and found senior substitute Ryan Yackel wide-open on the right side. Yackel's cross found Pifer at the near post, and the junior midfielder slid in to put the ball past Winthrop goalkeeper Enrique Miranda. Energized by the goal, the Scots began the second half right where they had left off. Forward Julian Allgeier found space and played a well-timed through-ball to Ford Quarterman as he raced past the Eagle defense. The senior winger took a good touch around the keeper and passed the ball into the net to level matters at 2-2. As the minutes wore on, Winthrop found themselves being continuously frustrated. The Scot's defensive back-line of Ben Wagner, Scott Schindler, Hunt Davidson, and Jackson Slagle showed no mercy to the Eagle attackers, who constantly had to settle for ineffective, long-distance shots. In the 75th minute, though, a cleared corner kick was played back in by a Winthrop attacker, and forward Matthew Skonicki put the Eagles ahead with a well placed shot past goalkeeper John Eger. Substitute forward Brian Stair had a chance to grab a late equalizer for Covenant, but his header sailed just inches over the bar.
The game ended in a 3-2 defeat for Covenant, but that didn't keep coach Nathan Pifer from praising his team for their effort. "We fought hard tonight. The players gave it everything they had, and we have nothing to be ashamed of. It was unfortunate that we didn't come away with a win or a draw, but the boys have no reason to hang their heads. They played well, and if we had been a bit more opportunistic like they [Winthrop] were, we might have walked out of here with a better result." After the tournament, junior David Pifer and seniors Ford Quarterman and Scott Schindler were awarded with all-tournament honors. The Scots are now 1-2-0 on the young season, and will next play California Lutheran at Maryville College in Knoxville, Tennessee on September 12th.