HPU MSOC: No. 12 Panthers Clinch Second Straight Big South Championship

• No. 12 High Point University men’s soccer secures its second straight Big South regular season championship after knocking off Radford 2-1 on senior night
• The Panthers fell behind by a goal in the second half, before tallies from Tony Pineda and Ryan Inman gave the home team the one-goal win
• High Point moves to 6-0-1 in conference play on the season, one win away from becoming the first HPU squad since 2010 to go undefeated in the Big South

HIGH POINT, N.C. – No. 12 High Point University men’s soccer clinched this year’s Big South regular season championship with a 2-1 win over Radford this Saturday, the second year in a row they’ve taken the title. The Panthers fell behind by a goal in the early goings, before a pair of second half goals from freshman Tony Pineda and junior Ryan Inman earned HPU its sixth win in conference play on senior night.

“I’m so happy for our players, our program, our support staff, and our entire athletic department.” said EJ O’Keeffe. “I’m really ecstatic for everyone. I thought we played really well tonight, and credit to all 32 guys in our locker room. They’ve worked unbelievably hard since August, and even before that, and to see that pay dividends tonight? It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

The Panthers offense jumped on the Highlanders early, forcing the Radford keeper to make three saves before the 27th minute. The home team’ relentless pressure made it difficult for the Highlanders to control possession outside of their own end, but it would still be the visiting side to open scoring on the night. Saturday’s contest showcased two of the top freshman in the contest, and Radford’s Amadou Diop did not disappoint, scoring his eighth of the season in the 35th minute, for a 1-0 Highlander lead.

Not to be outdone, HPU freshman Tony Pineda delivered his seventh of the season just over 15 minutes into the second half, once again contributing on a Panther set piece. Junior Josh Baker delivered a swooping free kick from roughly 25 yards out, that was played back into the six-yard box by forward Ilias Kosmidis. Pineda capitalized on the ball with a well-timed header, putting his team back even with the visitors at 1-1.

Pineda would collect the unofficial assist on his team’s second goal of the night, drawing a penalty kick just six minutes after his own goal. The Statesville-native was taken down inside the 18 while cutting across the face of goal, to set up his team’s fifth PK of the season. With usual penalty-taker, Kosmidis, on the bench, junior Ryan Inman lined up for the spot kick, tucking away his second of the year, and delivering his team’s go ahead score.

The Panther offense was relentless from the start of the second to the final whistle, outshooting the visiting Highlanders 9-3 in the final 45 minutes. After securing their second goal it would be up to the Panther defense to close things out however, with goalkeeper Keegan Meyer making a pair of key saves in the final six minutes of play.

Keeping the visitors without a goal in the final period, No. 12 High Point sent their set of seven seniors off with a win and their second straight Big South title. HPU players Pat Fallon, Hunter Allen, Daniel McClintock, Ryeong Choi, Bana Ganidekam, Rashid Tetteh and Johnny Fenwick all played their final regular season match at the Vert this Saturday, and are now tied for the most Big South wins for a graduating class in Panther history (21).

“Our senior class has some great guys. We are a tight-knit group that get along really well.” said senior captain Johnny Fenwick. “All those players that came before, we learned off them and we became a tight-knit freshman group, and we have been together ever since. That’s a testament for what we have been doing from the start, and we showed it tonight all together as a team, and we are not done yet by any means.”

>> The Panthers have now won three Big South regular season titles in all, and are the first team in program history to go back-to-back
>> Pineda’s goal gives him 17 points on the season, tying him with Radford’s Diop for the most of any freshman in the Big South
>> Radford has not won a game in High Point since 2013, and has not won a match in the state of North Carolina in over a calendar year
>> With a win over Presbyterian this coming Wednesday the Panthers would finish the conference season 7-0-1, the first HPU squad to go undefeated in Big South play since 2010

• The Panthers close out the regular season on the road at Presbyterian next Wednesday at 7 p.m.
• HPU lost to the Blue Hose in penalties during the pair’s previous meeting in the 2017 Big South tournament final