CONWAY – Junior forward Ashton Bennett netted his seventh, eighth and ninth goals of the season as the No. 24 Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team downed Big South foe Liberty by a 3-1 tally on Sunday afternoon at the CCU Soccer Field.
The win improves the Chanticleers to 7-2-0 (2-0-0, Big South). The loss snaps the Flames’ six game win streak and brings their record to 6-2-0 (1-1-0, Big South) on the season.
“We are delighted to win this game against a very good Liberty that has some big wins already this year,” said head coach Shaun Docking. “I was very impressed with both team’s play today.”
Liberty struck first in the match as Alex Verville found the back of the net from 17-yards out off a pass from Phillip Aseweh. After receiving the pass, Verville took one touch and fired a low-lying shot past Coastal’s diving Scott Angevine.
Liberty would apply steady pressure on the Coastal defense with its counter possessions after the goal until the Chants were able to settle down and find an offensive rhythm.
The Coastal offense awoke in the 56th minute as freshman Rick Garbanzo nearly curved in a free kick from just outside the ’18. Garbanzo launched his shot attempt over a wall of Liberty defenders, but just wide of the far post. Coastal would continue to attack and forced another free kick minutes later that resulted in consecutive shots on goal by Garbanzo and Justin Portillo, however the Flames’ Josh Pacella was able to fend off both shots to preserve the 1-nil lead.
The Chants finally broke through on the scoreboard in the 64th minute as Bennett scored his first of the day. Sophomore Pedro Ribeiro ignited the score after blasting a low shot that the Liberty keeper was unable to secure. Bennett, who was trailing the play, took advantage of the Liberty mistake and booted the ball into the open net to tie the game.
Ten minutes later Liberty was afforded a prime opportunity to regain the lead as a Coastal foul inside the ’18 box set up a Darren Amoo penalty attempt. Amoo was unable to take advantage of the opportunity as he misstruck the ball popping it over the goal and out of play.
Bennett would find nylon for the eventual game winner in the 78th minute after a Liberty foul resulted in a Portillo free kick from the left side of the box. Portillo lofted the free kick toward the far post where Bennett, who had elevated above the Liberty defense, was able to head the ball home.
The Flames mounted one final counter in the late stages of the game, however, the misplaced header attempt by Verville sailed harmlessly wide of the goal.
Bennett would put the game out of reach with time winding down in the final minute of play. After receiving a pass from TeeJay East, Bennett beat a lone Liberty defender before uncorking a blast from 19-yards out past the Flames’ keeper to cap his second three-goal performance of the season.
“Ashton worked hard all week on his finishing and striking the ball,” said Docking. “Today, that hard work paid dividends and I look forward to seeing him develop throughout the remainder of the year.”
Coastal finished with a 14-9 advantage in shots, including a 6-3 edge in shots on frame. The high spirited game saw 29 fouls and three cautions issued.
The Chanticleers will step out of conference play on Wednesday, Oct. 5 to take on Southern Conference member College of Charleston at the Cougars Patriots Point facility.