Chants shocked by Eagles, hope for NCAA at-large bid

Winthrop scored a trio of second-half goals, including two in the final 3:03 of play to pull off an improbable 3-2 upset over eighth nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina in the Big South Championship game on Sunday afternoon at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex in Greensboro, N.C.

The Chanticleers, the Big South regular season champions, fall to 18-2-2 (10-0-0, Big South) on the year. Winthrop, who receives the Big South’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, improves its record to 12-8-1 (5-4-1, Big South).

Coastal, which entered the game riding a 15 game winning streak, a 19 game unbeaten streak and a No. 32 ranking in the RPI, will now have to wait until the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show Monday at 5:30 p.m., which will be streamed on NCAA.com, to determine its seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

The Chants received first-half goals from Ashton Bennett and Uchenna Uzo to take a 2-nil lead into the half. However, the score would not hold up as Winthrop scored less than 10 minutes into the second half to cut the Coastal lead to one. Winthrop’s Patrick Barnes then knotted the score with 3:03 to play and the Eagles’ Mason Lavallet sealed the comeback win with 1:10 remaining on the clock.

Barnes found the equalizer on a 10-yard blast off a grounded cross from Adam Brundle, beating Coastal’s Bertele to the right post. Lavallet scored his game-winner on a soft one-timer inside the box.

Bennett, who was named to the Big South All-Tournament team, was the first to light up the scoreboard at Bryan Park on Coastal’s behalf with his 18th minute scoring strike. Justin Portillo’s cross into the box went to the foot of Bennett who launched a shot. Winthrop’s Enrique Miranda blocked the blast, but was unable to collect the ball. Pedro Ribeiro then had a crack at the goal, but it too was also saved by Miranda. Bennett then gathered the rebound and slotted the ball inside the left post for his 15th goal of the season.

Eight and a half minutes later Coastal found the back of the net again. Portillo, an all-tournament selection, launched a corner kick into the box where Bennett fired off a close-range shot. Winthrop’s Miranda blocked the ball, but again failed to control the attempt. This time the ball trickled out to the foot of Uzo, an all-tournament team member, who proceeded to launch a blast just under the crossbar. The goal, Uzo’s third of the season, gave the Chanticleers a 2-0 lead with under 20 minutes to play in the half.

Coastal would continue to push forward over the remainder of the half, earning a trio of corners in the process. Winthrop earned a pair of scoring opportunities in the half, both coming by way of counters. Brundle had the Eagles most lethal attempt of the half as his shot with 1:43 left on the clock sailed just wide of the right post.

Winthrop pulled within one of the top-seeded Chants in the 55th minute of action. Josh Mort sent a long arcing cross to the left side of the box. Magnus Thorsson met the cross with a header that beat Coastal’s Federico Bertele to the far post. The goal was only the fourth surrendered to the Big South opponent by the Chanticleer defense this season.

The Chants fired off six shots in the second half and earned three corners. Coastal finished the contest with a 16-8 shot advantage and 9-1 edge in corners. Bertele converted a single save, while Miranda tallied six stops.

The loss was the first for the Chanticleers since falling in the second game of the season at then third-ranked Charlotte 1-0 in overtime on Aug. 27.

Photo by Joel Beachum

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