CONWAY – On a night that seniors Ashton Bennett, Robby Joe Daniels and Sean McCormick were honored prior to the game, it was sophomore Ricky Garbanzo that made sure the eighth-ranked Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team kept about its winning ways. Garbanzo delivered the decisive strike in the 60th minute of play as the Chanticleers downed conference foe High Point, 1-0, to finish the regular season with a perfect 10-0 Big South record and a 16-1-2 overall mark.
With the victory the Chants, who already clinched its second consecutive Big South regular season title and top seed in the forthcoming Big South Tournament, pushed its record-setting conference regular season winning streak to 19 games. Coastal also became the first league team to claim 10 conference victories, surpassing last year’s team that previously held the record with a 9-0 campaign.
Coastal looked as though it would take an early 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute of play as Bennett stood over a penalty attempt after Garbanzo was taken down in the box. However, it was not to be as Bennett misstruck the ball, pushing it wide of the goal.
The missed opportunity would not deflate the Chants or the electric crowd of 654 Chanticleer faithful. Coastal would fire off five more shots and earn a pair of corners over the ensuing 23 minutes. Jakub Stourac nearly put the Chants on the board with 24 second remaining in regulation, but his blast clanked off the left post and out of harm’s way.
High Point (12-4-22, 5-3-2 Big South) used a blend of speed and physical play to earn several scoring chances through the run of first period play. However, the Chants refused to waver, turning away each of the Panthers’ scoring opportunities.
The Panther’s came out strong in the second half, pressing forward for the opening 10 minutes. Coastal’s Federico Bertele was forced to make a reaching save on an arcing Mamadee Nyepon shot. Moments later, Bertele again made a great play as he came out of his goal to smother a ball played by Shane Malcolm, who had broken free behind the Chanticleer defense.
In the 57th minute Garbanzo sent a rocket of a shot on goal that was saved by High Point’s Kody Palmer. The Chants continued to pressure forward over the four minutes before Garbanzo found his fourth game-winning goal of the season. A Justin Portillo through ball was one-touched over to Garbanzo by Bennett. Garbanzo took a single touch inside the box before burying the ball into the back of the net for his 11th goal of the season and fifth in the last three games.
Coastal would force two more Palmer saves over the next five minutes as Portillo and Henrik Robstad each put a shot on frame.
Sophomore defender Uchenna Uzo made his presence felt with 8:32 to play in the match as he blocked a well-struck Leon Carby shot inside the 18-yard box.
The shutout was the 10th overall for the Chants this season, equaling the 1992 team for the fifth-most by a Coastal team in a single season.
Coastal outshot High Point 19-7, including a 8-3 tally in the second half. Bertele made three saves in goal for the Chants to improve his record to 14-1-2 and goals against average to 0.63.
Coastal Carolina returns to the pitch for the start of postseason play on Tuesday as hosts to a quarterfinal round match of the 2012 Big South Tournament. The top-seeded Chanticleers will play the yet to be determined eighth seed at 7 p.m.