Key conference matches loom for Pioneers this week

Key conference matches loom for Pioneers this week

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- With five matches remaining in the season, the Tusculum University men's soccer team is poised to make a charge toward the top half of the league standings as a pair of South Atlantic Conference matches loom this week.

The Pioneers (3-5-2 overall, 2-2-1 SAC) host Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Pioneer Field, then visit Catawba on Saturday night at 8 p.m. The Pioneers enter the week with seven points in the SAC standings, tied for seventh with Anderson and LMU and one point ahead of Catawba.

Tusculum battled to a 2-2 draw with Shaw on Wednesday night at Pioneer Field, scoring the tying goal with 8:06 remaining and playing the final 13 1/2 minutes of regulation and all of overtime with the man advantage. The Pioneers outshot the Bears 39-9, and received goals from Sander Johansen in the fifth minute and Nikola Vujicic in the 82nd minute to come away with the draw.

On Sunday, Tusculum also played a man up in the second half and took advantage by scoring two goals in a 2-1 win over Wingate. Sokho De Souza scored the equalizer in the 58th minute and Vujicic scored nearly six minutes later for the Pioneers. Sam Gilbert had two saves for the victory for Tusculum, which denied Wingate a chance to move into a tie atop the league table.

Lincoln Memorial opened the season winless in four matches (two losses, two ties) before winning three out of five. The Railsplitters have lost two in a row, falling 2-1 at Salem on Tuesday and dropping a 1-0 decision to Catawba at home on Saturday.

LMU, which is 3-5-3 overall and 2-2-1 in the SAC, is led by Ueslei Silva who has three goals and two assists for eight points. Four other players have scored two goals for the Railsplitters, who have played two scoreless ties among its three draws. Goalkeeper Robin Hermann has made nine starts and recorded a SAC-best 0.95 goals against average and four shutouts, while ranking second in the conference with a .827 save percentage.

The Pioneers trail the all-time series with the Railsplitters by a slim 12-13-6 margin, although LMU is 7-2-3 all-time in SAC matches. Last year, LMU beat Tusculum 2-1 at home to snap a six-match winless streak against the Pioneers. Tusculum has never beaten Lincoln Memorial at Pioneer Field in a SAC match (0-3-2) and last beat the Railsplitters at home in 2003 by a 6-1 score.

Catawba enters the week on a two-match winning streak and with victories in five of their last seven contests. The Indians earned a 4-2 non-conference win over Lees-McRae last Wednesday, then traveled to Lincoln Memorial and picked up a 1-0 win on Saturday on a header by Borja Gaspar with 4:27 left.

The Indians, who open the week with a home match against Lenoir-Rhyne on Wednesday, are 6-4-0 overall and 2-3-0 in the SAC, with their other win coming at home over Mars Hill (3-0) on September 21. Gaspar leads Catawba with five goals in eight matches, while Simone Trentin has three goals and five assists for a team-high 11 points. Luc Denisselle has won his last four starts for the Indians, and has a 1.71 goals against average in seven starts this year.

Tusculum leads the all-time series with Catawba by a 15-11-1 margin, including a 4-0 win at home last September 29. The Pioneers are 4-4 in eight SAC matches at Catawba, winning 3-1 in their last trip on October 21, 2017.

Henrique Devens continues to lead the Pioneers with four goals and three assists for 11 points in eight matches. Devens leads the Pioneers in shot attempts (26) and shots on goal (13) and is tied for seventh in the conference in points. Gilbert, who has started the last seven games in goal for the Pioneers, has a 3-2-2 record over that span and ranks seventh in the SAC in goals against average at 1.38.

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