Men’s Soccer: Panthers take Covenant down to the wire during 2-1 loss in USA South first round

Photo Courtesy of Covenant Athletic Communications
Photo Courtesy of Covenant Athletic Communications

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The LaGrange College men's soccer team was aiming to be the first team in the USA South this season to defeat Covenant, as the Panthers barely fell short, 2-1, in the first round of the conference tournament on Saturday at the UTC Sports Complex.

"Going into the Covenant game, we had a game plan that worked for most of the game," said Panthers second-year head coach Ryan Dickson. "We scored early on in the game and caused Covenant a lot of issues. It took two individual moments from Covenant to break us down, as the Scots did not really cause us many issues. We almost grabbed an equalizer right at the end but the ball did not fall our way. I could not be prouder of our performance throughout the game."

The fourth-seeded Panthers (6-11-1, 5-7-1 USA South) continued to make huge strides this season under Dickson. The unit finished the regular season with a program-record 16 USA South points. LaGrange was competing in the playoffs for the third-straight year. The Panthers' outstanding four-person senior class will be greatly missed, but those players will be remembered for helping the program reach new heights.

"It is always emotional when your last game of the season ends, as we now lose four amazing seniors in Errick Sturm, Levi Gehman, Matthew Fritts and Kaine Baker," said Dickson. "I would like to thank them for their service and commitment to the program over the last four years."

Top-seeded Covenant (17-2-1, 13-0-0 USA South) advanced to the semifinals and will host Greensboro on Friday, Nov. 8, with game time to be determined.

HOW IT HAPPENED:

  • The Panthers struck first in the 12th minute, as freshman midfielder Blake Webb sent a free kick into the middle of traffic inside the 18-yard box. Covenant goalkeeper Paul Lemay leaped up and tried to clear the cross, but the ball carried over his head and Panthers junior defender Asher Hendon buried his third goal of the year.
  • LaGrange came in with an outstanding game plan, as it limited Covenant's high-octane offense to a total of 13 shots. The Panthers made great adjustments after falling, 5-0, to the Scots on Oct. 18.
  • Parker Owen evened the score at 1-1 in the 27th minute for the Scots. Noah Lee played a ball down the left sideline in the attacking zone to Josh Brower, who located Owen for a point-blank chance in front of the net.
  • Panthers freshman goalkeeper Gian Dev kept the score knotted at 1-1, denying a shot by Matt Morefield heading toward the bottom-right corner in the 53rd minute.
  • During the 55th minute, Webb played a strong through ball to Sturm on the right side of the box, but Sturm's shot was corralled by Lemay.
  • The Scots generated the game-winning tally in the 73rd minute, as Brower was on the move toward his left and tucked a shot into the bottom-right corner.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • Dev made three saves in net for the Panthers during his first playoff start.
  • Covenant led the shots category, 13-4, but LaGrange only allowed five shots on goal.
  • The Panthers have played in back-to-back, one-goal games in the first round of the USA South Tournament, as they fell, 2-1, to Maryville in 2018. In each game, LaGrange scored the first goal.
  • Sturm (7 goals, 4 assists) and Webb (5 goals, 8 assists) each finished the season with 18 points. Webb's eight assists are tied for the fourth most in the USA South. Freshman midfielder Enrique Hernandez recorded five goals and three assists for 13 points.
  • Sturm ends his collegiate career as the Panthers' all-time, goal-scoring leader (35) and ranks second in all-time points (76).