GREENSBORO, N.C. – The High Point University men’s soccer team fell to the top-seeded Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina by a score of 2-1 in the Big South Semifinals on Friday evening at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C. Sophomore Mamadee Nyepon scored his third goal in two games in the comeback effort by the Panthers.
“Coastal Carolina is a very worthy opponent who deserves to play in the final and we wish them luck moving forward,” head coach Dustin Fonder said. “That being said, we could have gotten more out of tonight’s game if we had played two halves. We conceded the first half and allowed them to dictate everything. In the second half we came out , played our style and had success. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the second goal to equalize.”
With the loss, High Point finishes its season with a 12-5-3 overall record. The 12 wins by HPU is the second-most in a single-season since the Panthers joined Div. I in 1999. Coastal Carolina, the No. 8 team in the nation, improves to 18-1-2 overall and advances on to the Big South finals where it will face the winner of the game between Radford and Winthrop.
High Point came out firing early in the game, testing Coastal Carolina with three shots on frame. Nyepon had a shot on goal in the fourth minute, redshirt-senior Ryan Bennett put a header on frame in the fifth and senior Shawn Sloan forced a diving stop with a free-kick shot in the 14th.
The Chanticleers found the first goal of the back-and-forth affair in the 21st minute when Ashton Bennett found a little space down the right flank on a counter attack and hit a cross into the box. The ball took a deflection to the far post where Pedro Ribiero tucked it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
CCU doubled its lead just five-minutes later when Ricky Garbanzo and Ribeiro combined at the top of the penalty area to free Garbanzo for the score. Garbanzo hit a square ball to Ribeiro who immediately played the forward through the line with a backheel pass. Garbanzo took one touch before hitting a shot from 10-yards out into the far-side netting.
Down 2-0 after the first half, the Panthers were the aggressors throughout the second half. HPU pushed forward from the opening kick of the period, knocking the Coastal defense back on its heels. In just the second minute of the half, HPU earned a free kick just outside the box and Sloan hit a curling shot that forced a punch save over the bar by CCU keeper Federico Bertele.
The offensive pressure by High Point finally broke through the organized Coastal defense in the 60th minute as Nyepon scored to pull the Panthers back within one. Sloan found Nyepon posting up a defender at the edge of the penalty area. The forward settled the ball and spun off his defender, hitting a hard low-running shot to the bottom-right corner of the goal past a diving Bertele.
High Point continued pressing for a second score, outshooting the Chanticleers 6-2 in the second half, but was unable to find an equalizer. The Panthers’ last chance came in the 90th minute when Nyepon hit a low shot on frame off a corner kick but the attempt was stopped to seal the win for CCU.
The Panthers finished the game with a 13-9 edge in shots and a 12-2 advantage in corner kicks. Eight of HPU’s 13 shots were on goal.