The LaGrange College men's soccer team is thrilled to be competing in the USA South Tournament for the third-consecutive season, as the Panthers will take on Covenant in the first round on Saturday at 4 p.m. from the UTC Sports Complex in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
"Going into the Covenant game, we know it is going to be a tough match," said Panthers second-year head coach Ryan Dickson. "They have not lost a conference game all year and beat us already in the regular season. I believe that we have the players that on their best day can be as good as anyone in our conference. We will have a game plan and we need to stick to it."
The fourth-seeded Panthers (6-10-1, 5-7-1 USA South) clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 4-3 win at Pfeiffer last Saturday, as senior Errick Sturm (3 goals, 1 assist) and freshman Blake Webb (2 assists) led the way. The win gave the Panthers' 16 USA South points, which is the most in program history.
LaGrange is comfortable working out of the fourth seed, as it gave top-seeded Maryville everything it could handle in a 2-1 setback in the first round of the 2018 USA South Tournament. The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the third minute on a goal by then-junior Matthew Fritts, but Maryville responded with back-to-back goals, including the game-winner with 37 seconds left in regulation.
Top-seeded Covenant (16-2-1, 13-0 USA South), which made it to the 2018 USA South championship game, defeated LaGrange, 5-0, on Oct. 18 at Panther Field.
PANTHERS 2019 REGULAR-SEASON HIGHLIGHTS:
- Sturm became the program's all-time, goal-scoring leader with a two-goal performance during a 3-1 win over Averett on Sept. 21 at Panther Field. Sturm currently ranks atop the Panthers' record book with 35 career goals and second with 76 career points.
- For the first time in program history, LaGrange defeated Piedmont on the road on Oct. 1, as the Panthers rallied from a 1-0 deficit with a two-goal effort by Webb during a 2-1 overtime win. Webb evened the score with 54 seconds left in the first half, and then put the game-winner into the top-right corner of the net from 25 yards out 7:08 into overtime.
- Sophomore Evan Sampers scored two goals during a 2-1 double-overtime comeback win on Sept. 14 at Methodist. Sampers scored his first collegiate goal 55 seconds into the second half, and then he recorded the game-winner 2:55 into the second overtime.
- Webb earned USA South Rookie of the Week laurels on Oct. 7 and 28, while freshman goalkeeper Lucas Wright collected the honor on Sept. 23.
- The Panthers honored their outstanding four-person senior class in Sturm, Levi Gehman, Kaine Baker and Fritts on Oct. 19 against visiting Greensboro. The four individuals helped the program reach new heights, including being a consistent playoff team.
- Sturm currently maintains team-highs of 18 points and seven goals, while Webb leads the charge with seven assists and ranks second with 17 points. The seven assists are tied for the fifth most in the USA South. Freshman midfielder Enrique Hernandez has been a strong source of offense with five goals, three assists and 13 points.
- From a defensive perspective, Baker, Fritts, junior Asher Hendon and freshman Bryson Gordy performed well, holding opponents to two or less goals in 10 games. Wright earned four wins, while freshman goalkeeper Gian Dev posted a pair of victories and a shutout. Wright led the team with a 2.19 goals-against average.
- The Scots lead the USA South in goals for (45) and goals against (5). Covenant has scored four or more goals in eight of 19 games this fall.
- Josh Brower (10 goals, 11 assists, 31 points) and Mercer Stout (13-3-29) have led the way from an offensive perspective. Brower leads the USA South in assists and ranks second in points, while Stout ranks third in goals and fifth in points.
- Goalkeeper Paul Lemay (13-1-1) has seen the bulk of duty in net, starting 15 games. He leads the conference in goals-against average (0.55), save percentage (.869) and goals against (8).