GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Felipe Checco scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:14 left in the second half as Wingate edged Tusculum 2-1 in South Atlantic Conference men's soccer action Saturday night at a rainy Pioneer Field.
Checco collected a turnover 25 yards out and beat Tusculum keeper Alejandro Quiriti one-on-one as the Bulldogs (11-4-1, 8-1-1 SAC) nailed down the SAC Championship and earned the top seed for next week's SAC Championship tournament.
Ayuk Tambe scored on a penalty kick with 19:27 left for the Pioneers (2-8-6, 2-4-4 SAC), who tied for the eighth and final conference tournament spot with Newberry and Coker, but were eliminated on a three-way tiebreaker.
A steady rainfall with intermittent downpours created sloppy field conditions, and the statistics reflected the weather as the teams each finished with seven shot attempts in the match, but combined for 31 fouls.
Tusculum entered the match knowing that it only needed a draw with Wingate to earn a SAC Championship tournament berth, and held the Bulldogs without a shot on goal in the first half. The Pioneers had the only shot on goal of the half in the 23rd minute on a long-range try from Pau Peiro that was easily handled by Bulldog keeper Pablo Jara. A miscue nearly cost the Pioneers in the 43rd minute as Quiriti came out to the top of the box to clear a loose ball, but fired it off a teammate back toward his goal and just wide of the frame.
Wingate took a 1-0 lead at 48:14 as Checco served a long pass to the top of the box, where Elliot Cutts collected the ball and eluded Quiriti to score his 11th goal of the season. Tambe came on in the 61st minute and nearly tied the game in the 66th minute as his shot cutting in from the left side was stopped by Jara.
With 19:27 remaining, the Pioneers were awarded a penalty kick as Tambe was taken down in the box. Tambe stepped up to the spot and went dead center for his third goal of the season and a 1-1 tie.
As overtime loomed, Wingate caught a break as the Tusculum defense could not handle a pass and Checco claimed the loose ball, avoided Quiriti and scored his fifth goal of the season with just 3:14 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
Tusculum nearly pulled out the miracle with just under a minute left, as a chip from the top of the box from Edgar Cervantes ricocheted square off the crossbar. Wingate would clear the rebound and run out the clock in the Tusculum end.
Jara was credited with three saves in the match for the Bulldogs, while Quiriti had one save in goal for the Pioneers. Wingate took five corner kicks to two for Tusculum, while the Pioneers were flagged five times for offsides to four by the Bulldogs.