Tigers Come From Behind to Win C-USA Tournament
Nov. 14, 2004
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Down 2-0 at the half, the University of Memphis men's soccer team put together an amazing comeback, scoring three second period goals to win the Conference USA Championship against No. 23 UAB, 3-2, on Sunday at Cardinal Park.
The No. 11 Tigers (16-3-1, 8-1 C-USA) had never come back to win after being down this season in four previous games and only came back to tie one of those, a 1-1 draw at UIC. But freshman Marcus McCarty scored two goals to tie the game in the second half and senior Daniel Dobson nailed the game-winner with only a little more than two minutes left in the game as Memphis won its seventh straight.
It is the first time Memphis has won the C-USA Tournament in the 10-year history of the conference and continues a Cinderella year for the Tigers who were picked to finish ninth, second to last, in the conference preseason polls. Memphis now earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament which begins on Friday. It is the second time the Tigers have appeared in the NCAA postseason with the first coming in 1993 when the team won the Great Midwest Conference.
"We played six matches up until today without conceding, so we knew it was inevitable that we would concede at some point," said Memphis head coach Richie Grant. "We were disappointed with our reaction to the first goal and then we found ourselves down two. We thought it was poor containment on our part. Then the game opened up and it became a great match."
UAB (12-7, 7-2) came out in the first period blazing against an anxious Tiger team. The Blazers dominated control of the half, making three of six shots on goal. Jason McLaughlin put UAB on the board first in the 28th minute. The ball was knocked around in the box and found net from an assist by Shane Elsner. It is the fourth-straight game McLaughlin has scored, giving him six goals on the season. The assists is Elsner's third.
The goal broke a streak of 465 consecutive scoreless minutes by senior goalie Sebastian Vecchio dating back to a penalty kick goal by DePaul on October 15. Vecchio was 24 minutes away from tying the school record for a consecutive streak.
Eight minutes after UAB scored its first goal, Sandy Gbandi sunk a shot from outside the penalty box to give the Blazers a two-point advantage heading into the half. His fifth goal of the season came on Jarbas Carlos' first assist of the year.
"We were just disappointed at the way we played in the first half, and I think that credit goes to UAB," Grant said. "They outhustled, they outworked and they really looked like a team that had been in this situation before. We felt we needed to get back to what got us here. We really showed that in the second half. We played with a spirit and energy that allowed us to go on and win the game."
Memphis had six shots in the first period with only one on goal, a shot from Andy Metcalf within the box on a bounced around throw-in.
The Tigers came back from the half rejuvenated and took control early in the second. McCarty put Memphis back into the game, scoring the Tigers' first goal within the first five minutes of the half. His fourth goal in five games came on an assist from freshman Adam Montgomery.
Momentum then shifted to the Blazers side as UAB got off several consecutive shots. Vecchio, who only gave up two goals once previous this season in a 2-0 loss to USF, kept Memphis in the game with two outstanding saves. On a corner kick, Elsner headed a hot shot toward the top of the box that Vecchio blocked with an outstretched hand.
"Vecchio showed why he was the player of the year," Grant said.
After a media timeout, Memphis took control of the game again and tied the score on a diving header by McCarty, his second goal in the game. Dayton O'Brien picked up his 14th assist of the season and Cormac McArdle his third on the play. McCarty now has eight goals on the season, fourth all-time at Memphis among freshman goal scorers. He ties O'Brien for the second most goals on the team.
Memphis held UAB scoreless through the second half allowing Dobson to put the game away in the 87th minute on a rebound off a throw-in. It is the senior's fifth goal on the season.
The Tigers will now wait and see where the NCAA selection committee seeds them in the tournament. The seedings will take place live on ESPN News at 3:30 p.m. (CST).