ROCK HILL, S.C. --- The Tusculum University men's soccer team advanced to the South Atlantic Conference finals for the third time in five years with a 2-0 victory over Carson-Newman University in semifinal action Friday night at Manchester Meadows.
Georgios Charkoutsakis and Jonny Winter scored for the third-seeded Pioneers (11-6-1), who will play fourth-seeded Anderson for the championship Sunday at 4 p.m. The Trojans defeated top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne 2-1 in the other semifinal match to advance to the finals for the first time since 2013. The winner of Sunday's match will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Tournament.
Pioneer keeper Alejandro Quiriti made four saves for his ninth shutout of the season, the third-most in a single season in program history and his second of the season against Carson-Newman. Quiriti also became the fifth keeper in program history to record 10 career shutouts with the clean sheet. Tusculum outshot Carson-Newman by a 23-10 margin, including a 7-4 edge in shots on goal.
After a tentative opening nine minutes that saw zero shot attempts for either team, the Pioneers turned up the pressure on the Eagles' goal. Edgar Cervantes had the first shot of the match in the 10th minute, followed by an attempt by Dario Ljubic in the 11th minute, but both were stopped by Carson-Newman keeper Twan Verweij.
A header by Mathias Grimstad was stopped by Verweij in the 14th minute as Tusculum put seven shots toward the Carson-Newman goal in the first 15 minutes of action.
The Pioneers got on the board at 20:49 as a corner kick by Fabian Proesch was headed in by Charkoutsakis for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 Tusculum lead.
Carson-Newman finally broke the run of nine unanswered shots by Tusculum as Jonny Le Quesne's attempt was stopped by Alejandro Quiriti in the 26th minute. Charkoutsakis tried for his second of the night in the 34th minute, but his header of a Proesch corner kick was wide.
Quiriti was busy in the latter stages of the first half, coming up with saves on Drew Bridge in the 33rd minute, Le Quesne again in the 36th minute and Greg Evans in the 38th minute.
Winter gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead at 55:20 as his shot from 35 yards out went off the left post and crossbar for his second goal of the season. Both of Winter's goal have come in the SAC tournament, as he provided the insurance goal in a 3-1 win over Wingate on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals.
From there, the Tusculum defense took over as Carson-Newman was unable to put any of its five second-half shot attempts on target. Tusculum outshot Carson-Newman 11-5 in the second half and had a 3-0 edge in corner kicks to control the possession against the Eagles.
Verweij finished the match with five saves for Carson-Newman, which saw Tusculum have a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks and a 16-14 edge in fouls.
Tusculum leads all conference schools with six SAC tournament championships in eight previous trips to the finals. The Pioneers have won their last four appearances in the championship match, including overtime wins over Wingate in 2014 and Lincoln Memorial in 2016. Anderson, which beat top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne 2-1 in Friday's other semifinal, is making its first trip to the title contest since 2013, when the Trojans' bid for a fourth straight championship ended with a loss to Queens.
Anderson leads the all-time series with Tusculum by a 5-3-1 margin, although the Pioneers have shut out the Trojans in each of their last three meetings with two wins and a draw. The teams played to a 0-0 deadlock at Anderson on Oct. 13. Both teams come in on a roll, with Anderson unbeaten in nine matches (eight wins, one tie) and Tusculum at 9-1-1 over their last 11 contests.