Braves Nearly Oust #4 Lees-McRae, Fall In 2 OT
PEMBROKE – UNCP had a run at one of its biggest wins in school history, but all-American Berin Boracic nailed home the Golden Goal just more than three minutes into the second overtime period to help fourth-ranked Lees-McRae escape Pembroke with a 2-1 victory over the Braves Wednesday evening at Varsity Grounds.
The win was the third victory for the unblemished Bobcats (6-0-0) in an otherwise back-and-forth series that dates back to the 2005 season. The setback was the second-straight loss for UNCP (3-4-1) who fell to 1-3-1 all-time against LMC, with two of the three setbacks coming by a single score.
Boracic turned in a pair of goals for the visitors, with David Palmer providing assists on both scores for Lees-McRae. Rondell Honora registered his second goal of the season for the Black and Gold, with Andy Pullin tallying his second assist of the campaign. UNCP goalkeeper Tom Courtney stuffed half of Lees-McRae's four shots on goal in the outing, with his counterpart Sean Paradise, turning in a game-best five saves for the victors.
“I was proud of our effort tonight, but disappointed with the result,” said UNCP head coach Mike Schaeffer. “We don't need moral victories.”
Lees-McRae looked to want to set the tone early as Palmer found himself in open space, but Courtney and Mulford both converged on the attacking player and stuffed his strike near the top of the penalty area. Carlos Cipriano had an equal advantage in the 23rd minute, but was harassed in the box before falling to the turf before an ensuing LMC clearance. The teams would go into the intermission entwined in a 0-0 deadlock, with the Braves owning a mild 4-3 shot advantage.
The Bobcats, again, attempted to get off the mark early in the second period as a nifty give-and-go produced a quality header attempt by Boracic, but Courtney left his feet to punch the softy out of danger and keep the game at a scoreless standstill. Lees-McRae, however, would get off the mark five minutes later when Palmer fed Boracic on a short corner kick and the senior got off a turnaround shot into traffic that took an unfortunate bounce underneath a diving Courtney and into the back of the net.
A flurry of UNCP offense would follow and, after a handful of chances went for naught, Honora took a feed at the top of the penalty area from Pullin and chipped a shot over Paradise to the top shelf to send the game into extra time.
Although failing to record a shot in the overtime periods, UNCP would have its chances to pull the upset in sudden victory. With 50 seconds left in the initial overtime stanza, Cipriano found a streaking Pullin in space, but the sophomore was inches offside, negating a sure 1-on-1 opportunity with Paradise. Two minutes into the second overtime period, Pullin found himself alone in space, but an extra pass by the unselfish Brave would prove to be lethal as LMC intercepted the pass and cleared it out of danger.
UNCP will make the long trek to the Heart of Dixie on Saturday as the Braves step back into Peach Belt Conference play to battle PBC newbie Montevallo (4-2-1, 0-1-0 PBC) at UM's Varsity Field. Game time has been slated for 7:30 p.m. CDT.