GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's soccer team will look to defend its South Atlantic Conference Championship tournament title when the Pioneers host Anderson in a quarterfinal match on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. at Pioneer Field.
The Pioneers (6-6-3 overall) earned the fourth seed in the field of eight schools with a 1-1 draw against Carson-Newman on Wednesday night. Tusculum went 4-1-1 in its final six conference matches to finish the season with a 5-3-2 record in league play.
The Trojans (10-5-1 overall) saw a seven-match winning streak end with a 2-1 loss at Queens in their final regular-season match on Wednesday, which dropped Anderson in a tie for fifth place with Lincoln Memorial at 5-4-1. The Trojans earned the tiebreaker and the fifth seed through a 2-1 victory over the Railsplitters on October 19. Anderson did not play a single match on their on-campus field this season due to renovations, splitting their home schedule between the nearby Anderson Civic Center fields and Legacy Early College in Greenville.
Admission prices for Sunday's match are $5 for adults and $3 for youth 12 and under, seniors 60 and over and active and retired military, and free for children 5 and under. College students with identification are admitted for $2, with Tusculum students who show valid identification having their admission charge covered by the Tusculum athletic department.
Anderson leads the all-time series with Tusculum by a 6-4-1 margin, including a 1-0 victory at Pioneer Field in the regular-season meeting on October 6 which snapped a four-match winless streak by the Trojans against the Pioneers (three losses, one tie). The Trojans are 4-1-0 all-time at Pioneer Field, including three wins by 1-0 scores. Sunday's contest will be a rematch of last year's SAC Championship game, which the Pioneers won by a 2-1 score to claim their third SAC tournament title in the last five seasons.
Tusculum's offense is led by senior Henrique Devens, who finished with nine goals and five assists for 23 points to rank fourth in the SAC in both goals and points. The Aracruz, Brazil native was tied for third in goals in conference-only matches with seven, and was tied for second in points in SAC matches with 18. Senior Nikola Vujicic had a streak of six straight games with a goal come to an end against Carson-Newman, but remains second on the team with seven goals in 12 matches. Junior Edgar Cervantes (four goals, four assists) and senior Sokho De Souza (three goals, three assists) also lead the Pioneer offense which was tied for third in conference matches with 21 goals.
A veteran Tusculum defense is led by senior four-year starters Georgios Charkoutsakis and Pau Peiro, along with three-year starter Henrique Devens and junior Dani Gongora. In goal, junior Sam Gilbert made 13 starts and played every minute of the conference schedule and compiled a 1.44 goals against average and .712 save percentage. Gilbert was 6-4-3 with two shutouts this season.
Tusculum has qualified for the SAC tournament seven times in nine seasons under head coach Allen Vital, winning the championship in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The Pioneers are 8-2-2 in the SAC tournament under Vital, winning six matches in a row and going unbeaten in their last 10 matches (eight wins, two ties). Tusculum's seven conference tournament championships are the most by any SAC school.
The Trojans were 3-4-1 overall and 0-3-1 in the conference following a 4-1 loss to Coker on October 2, but a 1-0 victory at Pioneer Field on October 6 kick-started a streak of seven straight wins for Anderson. Key to the surge has been the play of junior goalkeeper Gal Elyashiv, who recorded four shutouts during the seven-match winning streak. Elyashiv ranks third in the SAC with a 1.07 goals against average and is second with an .813 save percentage.
On offense, junior Harry Ward is the top scorer with eight goals and three assists for 19 points. Ward scored the only goal in the first half of the Trojans' win over the Pioneers in October, and also scored the lone goal for Anderson in last year's SAC Championship loss. Sophomore Shalev Keter has added five goals, with three goals apiece from senior Colin Burris and junior Alexander Cox-Ashwood.
Anderson won the SAC Tournament championship in each of its first three seasons in the conference (2010, 2011, 2012), but fell to Queens in the 2013 title match and Tusculum in last year's championship contest. Anderson is 6-1-1 all-time in the quarterfinal round of the SAC tournament, including three road wins.
The winner of Sunday's match will advance to the semifinals to face the winner of the quarterfinal match between top-seeded Carson-Newman and eighth-seeded Coker. The semifinal match will be played Friday, Nov. 15 at 11:30 a.m. at the Sportsplex at Matthews in Matthews, North Carolina, and the championship match is slated for Sunday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Sportsplex. The tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament.
2019 South Atlantic Conference Men's Soccer Championship
Saturday, Nov. 9
Game 1: #8 Coker at #1 Carson-Newman, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: #7 Newberry at #2 Queens, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4: #6 Lincoln Memorial at #3 Wingate, 4 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 10
Game 2: #5 Anderson at #4 Tusculum, 2 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 15 (at Matthews, N.C.)
Game 5: winner game 1 vs. winner game 2, 11 a.m.
Game 6: winner game 3 vs. winner game 4, 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 17 (at Matthews, N.C.)
Game 7: winner game 5 vs. winner game 6, 1 p.m.