Bulldogs suffer a heartbreaker at home to newcomer Queens, 3-0



Junior Midfielder Brendan Herb takes a freekick in Queens territory.

Jared Feinberg, Sports Writer, [email protected]

UNC Asheville’s early season struggles continued at home Tuesday after suffering an emotional defeat against Queens University in their first-ever match between the two, 3-0.

After a big win in their home opener over Georgia Southern, the Bulldogs are on a 4-match skid with a 1-3 record at home, with just a couple of games to go before the start of Big South conference play.

Asheville head coach Mick Giordano said the team needed to clean some things up before beginning conference play. 

“We’re going to need to tidy up defensively. We’re going to need to be tidier there, a lot harder, and a lot cleaner,” Giordano said.

The Bulldogs got behind 2-0 before the end of the first half against Queens with goals in the 18 and 42 minutes before tacking on a third goal early in the second half in the 54 minute. 

Coach Giordano said the team was lacking in certain areas during the first 45 minutes of the match. 

“In the first half, we were lacking in some aspects in what we wanted to talk about in our possession, being forward-thinking and trying to change the point, which is a bit disappointing for sure. It took two goals against us to run a play in the first half and then another in the second half against them to run a play. It’s disappointing to know you’re the better side, to know that we should’ve gotten on top of the game,” Giordano said.

Junior midfielder Brendan Herb, a transfer from Oregon State and management student, said the Bulldogs weren’t matching Queens’ energy in the first half, which put them behind. 

“Once we adjusted our energy, we were already down 2-0 and were chasing for the rest of the game. When we made some tactical changes in the second half, I felt like we were on the better side. We got some unfortunate calls and couldn’t finish our chances,” Herb said.

Junior goalkeeper Ian McGill said he admits he did not play at his best on Tuesday in a frustrating loss at home. 

“I didn’t perform well in the first half and I wasn’t having the best game. Queens came at us hard and got very physical. Unfortunately, we as a group were not on our best game for the whole 90 minutes. Losing at home on Tuesday was very frustrating for all of us, but all we can do is learn from our past and keep moving our process forward,” McGill said.

Despite giving up a goal early in the second half, the Bulldogs played hard and began performing more aggressively, with more energy on both ends of the pitch. 

“Maybe it was a little bit of emotion, maybe it was a little bit of nerves, but we did not get it solved as we should’ve. At the same time, the second half was some of our best football in the entire season so far,” coach Giordano said.

There was certainly emotion shown throughout the match as both clubs played physically throughout the second half. In the match’s final minute, a scrum occurred between Queens and Asheville as frustrations boiled over. McGill, however, showed appreciation to his teammates as a group for how hard they played despite being down early on. 

“I feel we as a group did well to compete with this and had some brilliant moments in the game for sure,” he said.

When it comes to what the Bulldogs need to improve on going forward, Herb said set piece defending is one of the key areas they intend to focus on. 

“Some things I look forward to improving moving forward are our defensive pressure and ability to keep goals out of our neck,” said Herb.

McGill said he feels the club can improve in all aspects going forward, including staying organized and getting to the ball quicker. 

“We can be more aggressive from the start of that first whistle to get after the teams we play early. This group we have this fall is filled with some unbelievable talent and as long as we trust in one another we can get the job done,” said McGill.

Coach Giordano offered a similar insight to his goalkeeper, explaining that while everything is still coming along, there are positives to take away from the second half of Tuesday’s match. 

“We got to stick to our brand, we have to believe and we got to come out sharper. We got to come out harder, more aggressive. The intensity needs to be raised and we just need to get going. The second half showed what we can do, but now it’s about putting it all together,” coach Giordano said.

The Bulldogs head coach looks forward to the Big South competition, which begins with Gardner-Webb on Sept 24. Before then, non-conference competitions help them stay ready for the tough task ahead in conference play. 

“The unfortunate part is that you look at things and you look at the season and you go, well, in some aspects, non-conference play is almost just a warm-up or an exhibition type to get ready for conference. For us, we obviously care about the result. We want to be able to get on it with every result. But at the same time, the conference is really going to matter,” said Coach Giordano.

Giordano also said the club needs to be more forward-thinking ahead of their first conference matchup. 

“Talking wise, we need to make sure that we are forward-thinking and we’re getting after them, and being progressive with our play because we know the Big South is going to be extremely difficult, if not more difficult than what we’ve faced the last two games,” he said.

Herb said his biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s loss was how he and his teammates played together, and as a group they now look to find more consistency during a full match. 

“What we can take away from this game and all the games we have played thus far this season is when we play with confidence and as a collective we can beat anyone in our league. We have seen moments of that in every game. Now we just need to find more consistency to have these moments turn from certain spells in the match to the full 90 minutes,” Herb said.

McGill had similar thoughts to his teammate, explaining the need for more chances at goals. 

“We had the drive to keep on playing and looked to score goals. We had way more chances on goal than we did in the first half. After going 2-0 down at halftime we could have easily put our heads down and just given up. All the boys worked so hard and I feel something special about this group is that we are prepared to battle it out with any team for 90 minutes,” said McGill.

Asheville begins conference play on Sept. 24 and can be streamed on ESPN+ at 6 PM ET.