Chants ready to dance as Sun Belt tourney champs

ccusoc-goaliejumpThe No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team won a thrilling 1-0 match against No. 3 seed and host Georgia State to claim its first ever Sun Belt men’s soccer title on Sunday at the GSU Soccer Complex.

The clinching goal came from Coastal Carolina (9-6-3) sophomore midfielder Jair Espinoza, who took a deflected ball at the top of the box and fired a low shot past a diving Yannic Horn. The goal was Espinoza’s third of the season as he took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer honors.

With the win, the Chanticleers claimed their first ever Sun Belt team championship since joining the conference officially on July 1, 2016. Coastal Carolina claimed its 25th conference championship in program history and will make its 13th trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Coastal will play host to Radford in the first round Thursday. Kickoff time is to be announced but is expected to be scheduled before the CCU football team hosts Liberty at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (14-8-0) rallied late with several scoring chances down the stretch, including one final free kick chance from 40 yards with six seconds on the clock, but could not push one across against Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers posted a second clean sheet of the tournament and its seventh of the season.

The teams traded clear chances throughout the match. The Chanticleers nearly struck first in the 28th minute when junior Frantzdy Pierrot attempted a bicycle kick off a tough angle in close, but the shot sailed over the crossbar. Georgia State redshirt junior Salomon Lorenzano nearly put the Panthers up late in the first half when he fired a shot from distance that was tipped by Coastal Carolina goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz off the post and cleared from danger by the defense.

The match went to half scoreless. In the second, CCU nearly broke the scoreless tie when junior Louis Dargent headed home a clear chance on a corner kick that just barely cleared the crossbar. In the 68th minute, CCU sophomore Ryan Willoughby took a run from the right side to just outside the 6-yard box before a tackle knocked the ball back to Espinoza who one-timed the ball into the left side of the net.

Coastal Carolina junior Braulio Linares-Ortiz made five saves on the afternoon and improved his record to 6-4-3 heading into the NCAA Tournament. Georgia State junior Yannic Horn (6-6-0) also made five saves in the losing effort.

For a third consecutive season the Sun Belt Men’s Soccer Championship final was broadcasted live on ESPN3 and available on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

The NCAA men’s soccer selection show airs on www.NCAA.com on Monday at 1 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Sun Belt Conference

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