VIDEO: Lenoir-Rhyne Highlights
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The Eagles defense withstood a powerful effort from fifth-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne to pull off a 1-0 upset over the Bears on Wednesday under the lights of McCown Field.
The victory marks the first over a top-5 opponent since 2013 when the Eagles took a 2-1 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight win over No. 4 Rollins to advance to the National Semifinals. They have gone 15-13-4 against ranked opponents in the last 15 years, never hosting a top-5 opponent before tonight.
The Eagles (4-1-1, 2-0-1) had not hosted a ranked opponent since last year's 2-1 double-overtime upset over No. 7 Tusculum. One game before that, C-N faced No.4 Wingate on the road, but walked away with a 2-1 loss in overtime.
"Lenoir-Rhyne's movement up top is very creative in the final third, and the way we handled it, kept composed for long periods and communicated everything we needed to put us in the position to keep that clean sheet and give us the result we wanted," head coach Stephen Lyons said of the defensive power shown by the Eagles.
VIDEO: Stephen Lyons Interview
The win gives the Eagles four clean sheets on the season, now tied with the number they produced in the 2016 campaign.
In the 32nd minute of play, Tobias Solem Karlsen split through two L-R (4-1, 1-1) defenders with a header to gain control on a pass from Samuel Jenkins to place a shot up near post for the goal. The score marked Karlsen's fourth goal of the season. He tallied three of the team's seven shots on the evening.
"It was a really solid performance from the guys and real full-team effort," Lyons said. "We're pleased with it and it's one to build on."
Defensive stands were crucial for C-N in the win. The Bears were only able to get two shots on goal, both coming in the second half. A shot from Ignacio de Goya hit the post late in the second half to put momentum on the Bears side. Minutes later, Marc Fernandez launched a rocket in hopes of equalizing the game but the ball sailed past the right side of the goal, all but sealing the Eagle victory.
This was the first time since Oct. 22, 2016 that the Bears were on the losing end of a shutout, recording clean sheets in their first three games of this season.
"For me, I have to say it was quite an easy match because the defenders didn't let much through," goalkeeper Twan Verweij assessed of the defensive squad of the Eagles. "As a goalkeeper, of course you want to make saves but rather no saves at all and keep a clean sheet."
Twan Verweij stood his ground in front of the net, picking up two saves in the outing. He now holds a 3-1-1 record on the year with nine saves total.
VIDEO: Twan Verweij Interview
Ismael Noumansana, the 2016 SAC Player of the Year, was held to just four shots, the most of any L-R player in the game. It was the second time this season that the senior had no shots on goal in a match, the first time being against Limestone in a 1-0 victory on Sept. 9.
For the first time in the 2017 campaign, the Eagles lost the shooting battle, only launching seven shots to Lenoir-Rhyne's 12.
The Eagles finished the night with four shots on goal, Karlsen and Jonny Le Quesne delievering two respectively.
The Bears did all they could to make breaks and stop the Eagles defensively. Goalkeeper Zach King made three saves in the effort, giving him a 3-1 record on the season. This was the second straight game in which he allowed a goal.
The Eagles wrap up their three-game homestand against Queens this Saturday for a 4 p.m. kick-off at McCown Field. The match will feature a live broadcast along with live stats and updates from @CNathletics.