JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – After a week away from action, No. 17 Carson-Newman gears up for a battle with Southeast Regional foe Lander on Wednesday night at Van Taylor Soccer Stadium in Greenwood, S.C.
This is the fourth-straight road match Carson-Newman (9-2-1) will be taking on, holding a 4-1-1 record in away contests this year. It looks to extend its winning streak to five consecutive victories on the season. During this stretch, the Eagles have outscored their opponents 8-2 with two clean sheets in-a-row.
"It's always tough going on the road against quality opponents, but the guys have shown really good resilience," Carson-Newman coach Stephen Lyons said. "To go and beat a ranked team like Coker, keep a clean sheet, even against Mars Hill which is a tough place to go to, the guys played well with another clean sheet. This should give the guys a lot of confidence going into another big matchup with Lander."
The Eagles are at nine wins on the season for a third-straight year. A win would give them their first double-digit victories season since 2015 when they went 15-3-2 with a share of the South Atlantic Conference regular season title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Since 1989, C-N has seen 14 seasons with 10 or more wins. The most wins the Orange and Blue have seen in a single season was in 2005 when it went 18-2-2.
Wednesday's match with Lander (6-3-2) brings the first non-conference match-up in two weeks and the first against a team from the Peach Belt Conference side this year. When facing teams from that league, C-N has gone 13-18-3 overall.
The reigning Southeast Regional champions have been ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation this season after a 2018 season that saw the Bearcats reach the NCAA National Quarterfinal where they fell to Barry, 2-1.but come into the match following back-to-back losses last week to Anderson and Young Harris. The pair of defeats marked the first time since 2016 that it has faced back-to-back losses, falling in the first two matches of that season.
"Every game is big for the guys, whether it's conference or non-conference," Lyons said. "We know we are always going to be in for a battle, but you want to test yourself against those tough opponents. That's how we measure where we really are."
"We expect this to be a tough game because Lander is coming off of two losses so they're going to be hungry to get the win. It's important that we stay focused, stick to the game plan and hopefully get another good result."
Fifth-year coach Lee Squires' group currently sits in a five-way tie for the top of the Peach Belt Conference standings with a three-points. It is in the top five of nearly every statistical category, including committing the second-most fouls per game with a 10.73.
Of the Bearcats' 20 goals this season, five have come from freshman Max Bolton. The forward has accounted for a team-high two game-winners, 12 points and 12 shots on goal in his debut season.
Like Bolton, Max McNulty has also made a splash in his first season with the Bearcats, finding the back of the net three times this year with one of those goals being the game-winner in a 2-1 win over St. Leo.
Netminder Jacob Withers has started in every game for Lander this season. He has allowed 13 goals on 30 saves with a trio of shutouts. He is third in the PBC this season for clean sheets.
Carson-Newman trails in the series with Lander 2-5-2 since it began in 1996. The Eagles have not seen a win against the Bearcats since Nov. 11, 2009 when it shutout Lander 2-0 at McCown Field.
Lander left Mossy Creek last season with a 2-1 win over the Eagles. A foul in the 18-yard box set the Bearcats up for a penalty kick for Jordan Skelton to put the Bearcats up 1-0 in the 40th minute. C-N answered in the 51st minute when Greg Evans (Wrexham, Wales) stole the ball on a defensive miscue to notch his first career goal. The game stayed in a deadlock until the 89th minute when a yellow was called on Ben King (Hertfordshire, England), giving Lander its second PK of the night. Skelton once again lined up and connected to give the Bearcats the win. The occurrence marked the first time since Sept. 16, 2003 that C-N conceded a pair of PKs in a match.