DURHAM, N.C.—UNC Greensboro senior Tebatso Manyama tallied a goal and an assist to lead the Spartans to a 2-0 victory over host Duke University in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship tonight at Koskinen Stadium. The Spartans advance to play Loyola (Md.) in the second round on Nov. 25.
The Blue Devils ran into a red-hot Spartan team tonight at Koskinen Stadium. UNC Greensboro came off a monumental run through the Southern Conference Tournament after capturing the title as the No. 7 seed to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans push their overall record to 9-11-2 and their unbeaten streak to four games, tying the longest such streak of the year. Duke closes out the 2008 season with a 10-8-2 mark, making its 22nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and fifth consecutive.
The counter attack proved to be the story of the game tonight as both of UNCG’s goals came off of Duke having numbers forward. Nirav Kadam had the opening score for the Spartans off an assist from Manyama. Tim Masters provided the pass for Manyama to ice the victory for UNC Greensboro.
Duke attacked right from the opening whistle, getting a shot off in the opening 30 seconds. The quick pace by both teams continued as they settled into a rhythm. Nearly 20 minutes into the game, the Blue Devils drew a foul about 30 yards from the goal. Senior Mike Grella stepped up and served the ball into the box and found Darrius Barnes open deep inside the box. Barnes ripped a low shot, but UNCG goalie Nate Berry made an outstanding point-blank save to keep the score at zero.
Following the save by Berry, the Spartans cleared the ball out of danger and pushed forward to catch the Blue Devils off balance. Manyama collected the ball on the left flank nearly 30 yards from goal and sent a ball to the back post in the penalty area. All alone at the back post was Kadam who one-timed the shot past Duke goalie Brendan Fitzgerald for the 1-0 lead with 26:19 left to play in the first half.
The counter attack proved to be crucial in the game as it went from potentially being a 1-0 Duke advantage to UNC Greensboro holding the 1-0 lead.
The Spartans continued to pressure Duke all over the field and never allowed the Blue Devils to get into a good rhythm. UNC Greensboro nearly made it 2-0 before halftime as Jokull Elisabetarson rocked the crossbar from 20 yards out.
The 1-0 lead after 45 minutes was not enough for UNCG. Looking for that second goal to ice the victory, the Spartans maintained its high pressure to keep Duke off balance. After a couple of early shots from UNC Greensboro, the Blue Devils responded with a couple of their own.
A Grella shot 10 minutes into the half missed its mark and the Spartans answered right away by attacking against the run of play. Running down the right side, Masters fed the ball to Manyama on the left flank. Manyama was able to get a touch on the ball to beat the defender and slip his shot low into the right side netting for the 2-0 lead.
That second goal proved to be the clincher for the Spartans. Duke pressed in the final 30 minutes, but the UNC Greensboro defense seemed to thwart every Blue Devil attack. The win was the sixth NCAA Tournament win in UNCG Division I history.
Duke held a narrow 14-13 advantage in shots, while the corner kicks were tied at four. Fitzgerald made one save in the game, while Berry had five saves in 90 minutes of action.
Head Coach John Kerr
On the game
“[UNC Greensboro] played a great game. They have some savvy players and they took advantage of their opportunities and they wanted it more than we did.”
On the second goal and its effect
“They really cemented their lead with that second goal and put us on our heels. Then we’re chasing the game and that made life very difficult for us. At the end of the day they played a tactically smart game and they wanted it more.
On Duke's play
“Well things go out the window when you’re 2-0 down. You’re chasing the game with 35 minutes left to go. It becomes very difficult to get into a flow of play. And the urgency wasn’t there to begin with and we finally got it after we went 2-0 down and that’s too late in these kind of playoff games. We made life difficult for ourselves and hats off to Greensboro. They played great today.”
On the return of Kyle Bethel
“He hadn’t even practiced with us. We just got clearance yesterday that he could play. He created a couple chances for himself in the first half. It was very unfair for him to be counted on, but what he did do he did well and we’re glad to have him back. Unfortunately we don’t move on so that ends the season officially, but we have some good young players and hopefully we’ll learn from this season.”
On the overall season
“It was great. We had some ups and downs and we knew it was going to be a tough challenge and our goal was to get into the NCAA playoffs and we did and we actually hosted a game, which we’re unfortunately on the wrong end on the score line. We made some progress throughout the season and we went through a patch towards the end of the season where we were playing very very well. The season didn’t end on a great note, but hopefully we can learn from some of these experiences and think about them as we move forward.”
On the ups and downs during the season
“It’s experience. We’re going to miss the seniors, they had great careers here and had great years this year. It’s going to be a transition. We have a lot of work to do this spring to get into the right mindset and to prepare ourselves for the following fall. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I know the players are excited. We have some good recruits coming in next year, so we turn over a new page and we look forward now.”
UNC Greensboro Quotes
Senior Forward Tebatso Manyama
“This means the season’s not over yet. I said it when the bracket was announced and everybody said we were the only team with a losing record, we won the last three games and it’s tournament time, anything can happen. One goal can win it. We’re not being cocky about it, but tonight we’re going to celebrate.”
On the increase in confidence
“We’re feeling confident, but there’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance, but right now I think we deserve it. We’ve been working hard and everybody has said we’re the underdogs. Even if we had lost the game today, everybody expected that so we’re pretty confident right now.”
On what has changed about the team’s play
“We changed the formation a little bit and the coaches got more confidence in us, so that’s about it. There’s more determination out there. You can’t play this game without determination. It’s not all about skill. I think some of the teams have better players than us skillfully, but it’s all about heart.”
On his goal to ice the victory
“As soon as Tim [Masters] crossed it, I thought it was too long for me. I stuck my foot out and as soon as I touched it I was thinking if I get this in we have a good chance of being in the second round. As soon as touched the ball the second round was in my head. Let’s go to the second round.”
On the counter attacks
“They were big, especially the second goal. Duke just missed its chance and then there was a counter attack. It could have gone either way. Duke could have scored and then it would be 1-1, but we took our chance. Duke had a couple chances too, they have great players, but we took our chances better than they did I guess.
UNC Greensboro Head Coach Michael Parker
Comments on the game and team
“We have gone from one of the most hapless, hopeless Greensboro teams I have possibly ever had at midseason to a team that is determined, organized, disciplined and wants to win. It’s unbelievable the change from midseason to now. You wouldn’t recognize this as the same team. I felt tonight we just outfought Duke. I thought we were the better team all night. Our pressure on Duke and our determination to put pressure on them all over the field bothered them all night.”
On the team’s confidence
“Only six teams ever have gone into the NCAA Tournament with a losing record and out of those six teams two have won the first round and now it’s three. So that tells a huge story too. It’s all about confidence. Once the confidence has come into us, which has been in about the last four or five games, we’re a different team. It’s all about confidence.”
On being the underdog
“You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose. I told them tonight, ‘Don’t be afraid, enjoy it and go after them.’”
Keys to the game
“The key to the game tonight was in the first half when our keeper made a great save and we went from potentially 1-0 down to 1-0 up 30 seconds later. That was a big big part of the game right there.