ROCK HILL, S.C. --- Ayuk Tambe scored the winning goal with 12:12 remaining in the second half as Tusculum University won the 2018 South Atlantic Conference Men's Soccer Championship with a 2-1 victory over Anderson University Sunday evening at Manchester Meadows.
Tambe's goal gave the Pioneers (12-6-1) their third SAC Tournament championship in the last five years and a conference-record seventh tourney title. Tusculum has earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament, and will learn their first round site and opponent when selections are announced Monday evening.
Tusculum played with a man advantage for more than 41 minutes after Anderson's Vinny Veiga picked up two yellow cards in the span of a minute midway through the first half. However, Jonny Winter was given a second yellow card after scoring with 19:41 remaining in the second half to drop the teams to 10 aside, and the Trojans tied the game with 15:31 left before Tambe netted the game-winner just over three minutes later.
The third-seeded Pioneers outshot the fourth-seeded Trojans (10-5-3) by a 19-10 margin, but Anderson had just four shots on goal as their winning streak was ended at seven games.
Winter, who scored in each of the Pioneers' three SAC tournament matches, was named Most Valuable Player. Joining Winter on the All-Tournament team were Mathias Grimstad, Fabian Proesch and Edgar Cervantes.
Anderson had the first shot on goal in the 4th minute, but a header from the Trojans' Colin Burris was stopped by Pioneer keeper Alejandro Quiriti. Tambe had the first look for Tusculum in the 10th minute, but his shot went wide of the near side in the 10th minute.
The Trojans were awarded the first corner kick in the 15th minute, and the service by Conor Kilgallon went to the head of Ryan Tyrer and then over the Pioneer crossbar. Another shot by Burris went wide in the 20th minute as Anderson had five of the first six shot attempts in the match.
Tusculum took its first corner in the 26th minute, which led to a blast from the box by Winter which was collected by Anderson keeper Gal Elyashiv in the 26th minute. About a minute later, Winter went to the ground in the box as he moved toward goal but the whistle stayed silent.
Fortunes swung in the Pioneers' favor in a span of 48 seconds in the 29th minute, as the Trojans' Veiga collected two yellow cards for fouls and was sent off. With the man advantage, the Pioneers put a shot on goal from Winter in the 30th minute that was saved, followed by attempts from Cervantes and Henrique Devens that were off target.
Tusculum finished the first half with a 7-5 edge in shot attempts, and had a 2-1 edge in shots on goal. Both teams had one corner kick, and Tusculum was flagged three times for offsides to once by Anderson.
Tambe had the first shot of the second half just 90 seconds into play, but Elyashiv made the easy stop from distance. Oscar Rubio Jimenez had a strong chance in the 50th minute, but his blast from 25 yards was stopped by Elyashiv.
Cervantes delivered a blast from distance in the 61st minute, but Elyashiv went hard to his right to make the save on Tusculum's 10th shot attempt of the match. The Pioneers' Shawn Foster may have had the best opportunity to that point in the match with 26:43 left, but his volley from 15 yards sailed over the frame.
Foster's scoring opportunity was one-upped by Dario Ljubic with 25:03 left, as his 30-yard blast was ticketed for the top right corner until Elyashiv made a lunging deflection to keep the match scoreless. Moments later, Winter headed a cross from Tambe but directly into the arms of Elyashiv.
The pressure finally paid off with the third goal of the SAC Tournament by Winter, who collected a pass from Foster and chipped into an open frame for a 1-0 Tusculum lead. However, Winter took off his shirt after the goal and was issued his second yellow card of the match, which sent him off and evened the sides at 10 men apiece.
Down a goal but even on the field, Anderson started to bring the pressure for the first time in the second half. After a shot by the Trojans' Lars Kaula was stopped by Quiriti with under 17 minutes left, the Trojans found the equalizer as Cameron Emerson found the head of recently subbed Harry Ward on a cross, and Ward went far side for the tying goal with 15:29 to play.
After being stunned by the Trojans, the Pioneers regained their footing and went back ahead 2-1 with 12:12 left as Tambe maneuvered through the Anderson defense and took a shot that was blocked, but he chipped the rebound to the far upper corner for his team-best ninth goal of the season.
Devens nearly gave the Pioneers insurance with 7:40 left, but his 1v1 chance on Elyashiv was smothered and deflected out of play for a corner kick. Quiriti preserved the lead by tipping away a defensive header and punching out the ensuing corner kick with just over two minutes remaining, and the Pioneers ran out the clock in the Trojans' half of the field.
Quiriti finished the match with three saves for the Pioneers, while Elyashiv had eight stops for the Trojans. Tusculum had four corner kicks to two for Anderson, and was whistled for 17 fouls to nine by the Trojans.
The NCAA Division II Men's Soccer selections will be announced Monday at 6 p.m. on ncaa.com. First-round games will be played Thursday or Friday at host sites. Tusculum will be making the sixth NCAA tournament appearance in program history, and first since 2016. The Pioneers are 4-5 all-time in NCAA competition, with trips to the national quarterfinals in both 2004 and 2008.
SAC All-Tournament Team
Jonny Winter, Tusculum (MVP)
Edgar Cervantes, Tusculum
Fabian Proesch, Tusculum
Mathias Grimstad, Tusculum
Birkir Petursson, Anderson
Colin Burris, Anderson
Harry Ward, Anderson
Tobias Solem Karlsen, Carson-Newman
Samuel Jenkins, Carson-Newman
Goncarlo Garcia, Lenoir-Rhyne
Ignacio de Goya, Lenoir-Rhyne