Ramon Gallardo's second-half penalty kick was the game-winner and Mount Olive became the final team to clinch a spot in the conference tournament as the Trojans defeated Lees-McRae 1-0 in Conference Carolinas men's soccer Saturday at Banner Elk, N.C. Goalkeepers Nick Bernsdorf and Kyle Lavender combined on the Trojans' fourth consecutive shutout.
With the win, along with losses Saturday by Belmont Abbey and Queens, Mount Olive vaulted to the No. 6 seed after entering the regular season finale in eighth place in the conference standings. The Trojans open the tournament Tuesday at No. 3 seed Erskine. Match time is 4 p.m. at Due West, S.C.
The match was scoreless in the 67th minute when a shot by Trojan forward Craig Allan was blocked in the box by a Lees-McRae defender. A handball was called and Gallardo put home the penalty kick to give Mount Olive the lead at the 66:58 mark.
Mount Olive (6-8-3 overall, 4-4-2 Conference Carolinas) nearly had its shutout streak snapped 10 minutes earlier when a Lees-McRae header went off the crossbar and into the goal. An offside call against the Bobcats waived off the goal.
Lees-McRae (3-11-3, 2-6-2) outshot Mount Olive 16-6 for the match, including a 10-3 advantage in the second half. Eight of the Bobcats' shots came in the final 23 minutes after Gallardo's penalty kick. The Trojan defense blocked three of the shot attempts and Lavender recorded a save in the 84th minute. Mount Olive also withstood three corner kicks during the final stretch.
Mount Olive was held to only three shots in the first half, but a Lees-McRae foul gave the Trojans a scoring opportunity in the 22nd minute. Gallardo's free kick was stopped by Bobcat goalkeeper Thomas Rusling.
The Trojans had a chance to get on the scoreboard on Craig Allan's shot attempt with 44 seconds left, but Mount Olive went into halftime tied 0-0 for the fourth consecutive match.
Starting with its 1-1 double overtime tie against Montevallo October 14, Mount Olive has held its opponents scoreless over the last 459 minutes of play.
Bernsdorf and Lavender each recorded one save. Rusling finished with two saves for Lees-McRae.
According to available records, the win was Mount Olive's first over Lees-McRae since 1994. The two teams played to ties in 2005 and 2008.
The 2012 Conference Carolinas Men's Soccer Tournament gets underway Tuesday with four first-round matches, each hosted by the top four seeds. Semifinals take place November 2 and the championship match is slated for November 4. Highest remaining seeds host the semifinals and championship.
In the regular season meeting September 22 at Amon Field, Mount Olive and Erskine combined for 40 shots, but battled each other to a 0-0 double-overtime tie.