JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the first time since 2015, the Eagles make their return to the South Atlantic Conference Tournament, this time as a second-seed, for a battle against seventh-seeded Queens (N.C.) on Tuesday at McCown Field.
Carson-Newman (9-6-2, 6-2-2) finished the regular season tied for second with Lenoir-Rhyne at 20 points, five points behind Wingate (25). The team closed out the regular season on a six game winless skid with three straight losses. The winless streak marks the second-longest to close the season. The longest was seven-straight losses by the 1989 Eagles.
"The last six results have been pretty poor by our standards," head coach Stephen Lyons said. "We did have a great start to the season so we need to find a way to turn it back around to get back to where we were at.
"We've got to bounce back from Saturday and respond on Tuesday, so it's an even shorter recovery time. I'm confident the guys are in the condition to do it and we know the areas that we need to improve in. It's just really important now that we get a good result because it's make or break at this point."
The Eagles found struggles in the final six games, but senior Tom Read has taken on a new leadership role in the absence of Tobias Solem Karlsen. Read heads into the postseason with 10 goals on the season and 23 in his career with the Eagles. He has 69 shots on the season for second-most in program history with 217 total. Omar Cooke holds the top spot with 274 from 2005-09.
Of his 217 career shots, 92 have fallen on goal, landing him at third in program history. He is also one assist away from tying the C-N men's soccer record of 32 held by Brad Cobbs (2002-05).
"Read has led the front line, but I'd really like to see some of the other guys step up and supporting that and produce some goals," Lyons said.
The Royals make their way to Mossy Creek for the second time this season. The last meeting was a 2-0 victory for the Eagles, highlights by career-first goals from Jonny Le Quesne and Tom Rankin. That win extended the Eagles' undefeated run to five games and was the third straight conference win for C-N at the time.
"It was a good result in the season, but, obviously coming into the postseason, it's always a different game since both teams know they have to get a good result or else that's the end," Lyons mentioned. "I think for us, knowing that we can get a result against them is important, but we have to produce and create more opportunities in the final third, be a little more clinical in front of the goal and try to get back to maintaining the clean sheets."
After the last meeting, the Royals went 4-2-2 to end the season while the Eagles went 4-5-1.
Queens closed out the regular season with a 3-2 overtime win over Lander on Oct. 25. An own goal by the Bearcats at the 32:00 mark gave the Royals a 1-0 lead that they would hold heading into the half. Edmundo Robinson scored off of a look from Liam Doyle in the 55th minute to extend the lead. Lander scored two goals shortly after to tie the game at two and send it into overtime. At the 99:51 mark, Juan Carlos Carrillo netted a goal to solidify the win.
The Royals ended the 2017 regular season with a 7-5-4 record, going 3-4-3 in conference play. The Royals garnered a 4-3-2 record in games at the Queens Sports Complex while going 3-2-2 in games on the road.
Edmundo Robinson leads Queens in scoring with 11 goals on 54 shot attempts with 25 falling on goal. His goals combined with two assists have given him a team-high 54 points this season.
Three goalkeepers have recorded time in front of the net this season, with Ben Wallace and Sergio Lemus getting a majority of playing time. In eight starts, Wallace has allowed 16 goals with 24 saves for a 3-3-2 record. Lemus has a 4-1-2 record, allowing five goals while making 24 saves. He has also recorded all three shutouts the Royals have this season.
Both teams are making their first appearances to the conference tournament since 2015. The last team Carson-Newman faced that season was Queens. The semifinal game was sent into overtime and ended up becoming a penalty kick shootout won by the Royals, 5-4.
"Queens had the weekend off so they have a little bit more time to prepare than we do," Lyons said. "We know their attacking threat and some of their weaknesses, so it's just important for us to execute like we did in the beginning of the season and have that belief in the group."
Tuesday's quarterfinal meeting is set for 7 p.m. at McCown Field. The Eagle Sports Network will provide a live broadcast and stats for the game. Follow @CNathletics for updates throughout the match.