UNC Asheville men’s soccer team went head to head in a back-and-forth match against High Point University at their home opener on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs scored three goals during the game, but this wasn’t quite enough to beat the Panthers as they ended the game with four goals and a win over UNCA.
UNCA started the game off strong with an early goal by freshman Andrew Rossetti. Rossetti placed the ball in the
back of the net off of a free kick from senior captain Kyle Adams, putting the Bulldogs in the lead in the first two minutes of the game. The Bulldogs continued to place pressure on the Panthers in their defensive half, leading to another goal shortly after in the 13th minute by sophomore Izaiah Vignali.
Shortly following Vignali’s goal eight minutes later, High Point player Jordan Lonchar was able to score a goal for the Panthers. This left the Bulldogs in a 2-1 lead at the end of the first half.
“We got off to a quick start and really dictated the game in the first half,” said Rossetti. “That really helped our momentum.”
The second half of the game began with a goal not even a minute in by High Point player Alex Abril, tying up the game 2-2. The Bulldogs continued to have chances on goal, eventually allowing Adams to volley a ball into the back of the net that had come across the 18 yard-box in the 73rd minute. This gained much excitement and encouragement from the team and fans as the Bulldogs now held the lead over High Point.
Exactly three minutes after Adams’s goal, the Panthers were able to tie up the game again with a goal by Ilias Kosmidis. Nearing the end of the game with the score 3-3, the Panthers were able to score a fourth goal with three minutes remaining. Alex Abril scored the winning goal for High Point, ending the game with a 4-3 loss for UNCA.
Rossetti felt the game was extremely evenly matched, both teams with several chances to win. The only difference he said was that High Point took advantage of their opportunity to win in the final minutes of the game and allowed for them to have the victory.
Freshman goalie Jarrett Payne credited High Point with some beautiful goals they were able to place on frame, but expressed disappointment in not achieving the result he felt the team deserved considering the amount of attacking opportunities the Bulldogs simply weren’t able to capitalize on.
“I was very satisfied with our performance and it really implemented the way coach Mennell wants us to play which is really good,” said Payne. “We just got a little unfortunate at the end.”
Despite the back-and-forth tension of game, the Bulldogs continued to fight for a win throughout the match, creating many offensive chances and shots on goal in the second half by Kaleem Shabout, Miles Peay, Tyson Hichman, and Taylor Durall. Payne contributed four essential saves while in goal for UNCA including a sliding save in the 62nd minute and a save off of a breakaway six minutes later. UNCA ended the game with a total of 20 shots, 11 of which were on goal while High Point totaled 22 shots with eight on goal.
Adams felt the tough game against High Point should motivate the team moving forward rather than bring them down. The team must avoid complacency now that they know what they are capable of and must continue with the same intensity in future games.
“We were definitely super excited,” said Adams. “To have our conference opener at home, following our women’s team, and against a good side, it was always going to be an energy filled night. I think this kept us on our toes all game, and forced us, to an extent, to stay engaged and hardworking all game.”
Similarly, Payne felt that the energy and mood on and off the field was extremely energetic and positive from players, fans and coaches, which was ultimately beneficial to the success of the team and allowed the Bulldogs to put together one of their “best performances”.
Adams was slightly disappointed in the response of the team after scoring the first two goals, feeling that they “left a bit on the table and opened up some room for High Point which led to their first goal, giving them some momentum.” Aside from this, Adams believed the Bulldogs had never truly been able to put their best foot forward against High Point, but this game they proved their capability and readiness to compete.
“I thought we were very good in transition, as well as shooting the ball and being more fluid with our movement,” said Adams. “At times it forced High Point to be more conscientious and safe about their passes which gave us a bit more confidence knowing we could keep the ball in their half of the field.”
The Bulldogs now hold an overall record of (3-9-1) and an in-conference record of (2-3-0). The men’s soccer team will continue their season when they play Gardner-Webb this Saturday night in their 6th conference match.
Payne has high hopes for the Bulldogs moving forward in their season.
“ I think we’ve put forth the right foot for the start of conference,” said Payne. “I imagine a very successful rest of the season if we keep improving game to game.”
As captain, Adams plans to continue leading the team by example and encouraging them to bring the same intensity they did against High Point for every game they compete in.
“I’m confident in our guys and I hope they are too because we have an opportunity to be great this year,” said Adams. “I’m lucky to be apart of such a receptive group and I don’t think we will have problems with guys getting out of tune moving forward.”