September 5, 2010

Bears Rally From Deficit To Stun UNCP

PEMBROKE – UNCP scored a pair of goals in a span of just more than two minutes midway through the first half to take a commanding 2-0 lead, but visiting Lenoir-Rhyne netted a score right before the half, and then added two more in the second, to stun the home-standing Braves, 3-2, Sunday evening at Varsity Grounds.

The Braves (0-2-0) got goals from freshmen Martin Tomter and Paul Freeman, while Braxton Perkins contributed a pair of assists in the setback. Martin Graham, Dave Bailey and Kyle Winterbottom each scored goals for Lenoir-Rhyne (1-0-0), with Oriol Cortes and Sean Rogers tallying assists.

The loss snapped a four-game series unbeaten streak for UNCP which dated all the way back to the 2002 season. The win was the first for the Bears since taking a 3-1 decision over the Braves during the 1991 campaign.

"(The loss) was our own fault," said UNCP head coach Phil Hindson. "We were up 2-0 and cruising, and then we made a mistake right before halftime that changed the whole mentality of the game. From then on, they gained momentum. It was just a terrible time to give away a goal and that situation changed the whole game.

"We played well for the first 35 minutes, but then that mistake just killed us. Unfortunately, we just could not recover. Until we learn to communicate, be alert and clear balls under pressure, we're not going to be very successful."

Although shots were at a premium in the first half, UNCP made the most of its chances, as Tomter capped off a brilliant transition opportunity with a strike that easily found its way past L-R goalkeeper Tom Heath at the 25:48 mark. Freeman registered his first collegiate goal just more than two minutes later, cashing in on another Perkins assist to put the hosts up 2-0.

Graham finally got the visitors off the mark in the 38th minute with a precision strike, hitting a 40-yard strike just off the fingertips of UNCP goalkeeper Ryan Hanson. The 2-1 score would hold up heading into the intermission.

The Braves, again, had all the momentum in the early part of the second period, but back-and-forth physical play only resulted in a series of fouls and yellow cards for both sides. Staunch pressure produced a corner kick for the Bears in the 70th minute and Cortes' perfect service into the box caught the head of Bailey who redirected to the bottom left corner for the Equalizer.

Winterbottom would have the final say of the game, however, as the Englishman came out of a scuffle in the penalty area and found space to fire a shot past Hanson for the game-winner.

UNCP will continue a season-opening five-game home stand on Wednesday when the Braves suit up to battle Barton (0-2-0) in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Varsity Grounds. Admission to all 2010 UNCP soccer home games is free.