Evans, Ga. – The No. 23-ranked and top-seeded Lander men’s soccer team erased an early deficit with five consecutive goals as the Bearcats took fifth-seeded Clayton State 5-1 at Blanchard Woods Park in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semifinals on Friday night. With the win, Lander advances to its third consecutive PBC Tournament championship match.
Lander (12-3-1) outscored the Lakers 4-0 in the second half, outshooting Clayton State 8-1 over the final 45 minutes.
“I thought it was a game of two halves,” said head coach Lee Squires. “I thought in the first half, even though we started pretty well, we never really got into a rhythm and got going. We left the game a little too open. We made some adjustments at halftime and utilized a lot players. In the second half, we were much more together and much more organized. The score line maybe flatters us a little bit, but we’ll certainly take it and we’re delighted to be in the final again.”
Clayton State (8-9-1) struck first at the 13:17 mark when Dionysius Harmon took a long pass from Hector Gutierrez and chipped a shot into the net to give the Lakers a 1-0 advantage.
The Lakers looked poised to take the lead into intermission before Lander got on the board when Oliver Brock‘s corner kick found Ian Foulger, who headed a shot past Clayton State’s Oliver Pannell in the 41st minute. to even the match at 1-1.
The Bearcats opened the floodgates in the second half, beginning at the 51:39 mark as Thibault Chretien drove the ball all the way to the end line before crossing a pass to Robbie Young, who finished to give Lander its first lead of the night.
Lander tacked on its third goal in the 67th minute when a Sam Lofts shot was deflected to the feet of Jamie Lunn. The senior buried the second-chance opportunity to increase the Bearcat lead to 3-1.
Foulger, who entered the night with one goal on the season, struck for his second goal of the match at 78:04, connecting on a header off a free kick assist from Brock.
Lofts wrapped up the match with his team-leading eighth goal of the year in the 85th minute.
Aleksander Holboe made two saves in the first half for the Bearcats, while Dean Cowdroy did not face a shot on goal during the second half.
The Bearcats return to action Sunday, Nov. 5, at 3:30 p.m. when they take on either second-seeded Young Harris or third-seeded North Georgia in the PBC Tournament championship match.