VIDEO: Stephen Lyons Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Seventh-seeded Carson-Newman gears up for its first trip to the South Atlantic Conference semifinals since 2015 as it will face a third-seeded Tusculum side on Friday night at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, S.C.
The Eagles (9-4-3) obtained a spot in the second round of the tournament after a 2-1 upset over second-seeded Queens on Tuesday night in Charlotte. It was the second time this season that Carson-Newman defeated the Royals on their home pitch.
"I feel like we've turned a corner," coach Stephen Lyons said. "We had a few games there where we weren't getting the results we wanted, but the performances were still good. I think now we are getting the results that we deserve."
Carson-Newman was the only lower seeded team to win its quarterfinal match. That win came with a solid offensive performance from All-SAC first team selection Tobias Solem Karlsen (Kongsvinger, Norway) who netted both of the goals for the Eagles.
In SAC postseason action, the Eagles are now 17-24-2 since 1990.
The Orange and Blue side has made it to the semifinals 12 times since 1999 with a 4-6-2 record in such games. It has not seen a victory in the second round of the tournament since a 2-0 win over Catawba in 2006. They have lost four of the last five semifinal matches they have played in since, the other result being a 3-3 tie with Queens in 2015 in which the Royals advanced on penalty kicks, 5-4.
Tusculum (10-6-1) defeated sixth-seeded Wingate in the quarterfinal, 3-1, at Pioneer Field. Ayuke Tambe netted a pair of goals in the win including a go-ahead penalty kick in the second half. Jonny Winter scored in the final minute to secure Tusculum's spot in the semifinal.
The Pioneers garnered a third-seeded position in the SAC Tournament after a 6-3-1 finish in the conference regular season schedule. They have gone 8-1-1 in its last 10 matches, outscoring opponents 23-5 in that run.
"We do know that Tusculum is going to be a very tough opponent," Lyons said. "They've actually had some great results after the last couple of weeks so it will be another great matchup, but, again, our guys should be confident going in, go in with a good game plan and look to execute."
Tusculum is in the top-five of eight statistical categories in the SAC including the most assists with 27 and the most shutouts at eight. Its eight shutouts in the regular season were enough to win that specific statistical title within the conference.
Four Pioneers were All-SAC selections this season. Ayuk Tambe and Georgios Charkoutsakis were voted to the second team at forward and defender, respectively. Edgar Cervantes and Mathias Grimstad were honorable mentions at the midfielder and defender positions, respectively.
Tambe leads the team with eight goals this season, three of those being game-winners. He has sent out 34 shots with 18 falling on frame.
Alejandro Quiriti has made 15 starts in as many games this season with a 9-5-1 record. He has saved 40 shots that have come his way for a .741 save clip. Teams have scored 14 goals against him this season. His eight saves on the year lead the conference and are tied for 11th-most in the nation.
The semifinal match with Tusculum will be the 35th overall meeting between the two teams with Tusculum leading 17-12-5 since 1990. In their six postseason meetings, Tusculum holds a slim 4-3 lead. In terms of SAC Tournament matches, the Pioneers possess a 3-2 advantage. The Pioneers and Eagles have faced off in the semifinals just two other times in 2003 and 2009 with an even 1-1 record in those matches. The last meeting was a 2-1 victory for Tusculum.
Tusculum handed C-N its first home loss of the season back on Oct. 3 with a 1-0 decision. Neither team could capitalize through the first 45 minutes. A red card on C-N's Ben King (Hertfordshire, England) in the 72nd minute forced the Eagles to play a man down for the rest of the evening. The ensuing penalty kick was saved by Twan Verweij (Utrecht, Netherlands), giving a shift in momentum to C-N. That spurt of energy did not last long with Roy Deutekom heading a bounce pass back that Ayuk Tambe raced toward, beating out Tobias Solem Karlsen. From nearly 10-yards out, Tambe sent a shot toward the back left of the net, just getting past a diving Verweij.
It was the first shutout loss to the Pioneers since 2011 and the first shutout loss at home since falling to Lincoln Memorial 1-0 at McCown Field on Oct. 26, 2016.
Friday's match is slated to begin at 7 p.m. from Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, S.C. A live stream of the match can be found through the SAC Website thanks to the folks at Wingate.