EVANS, GA – Junior Benjamin Kwast scored on a 17-yard shot with 1:55 remaining to lift fourth-seeded Francis Marion University to a stunning 3-2 victory over top-ranked and top-seeded Young Harris College, Friday evening (Nov. 8) in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament.
Francis Marion improves to 10-4-4 and advances to the PBC Tournament title match on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. against the Flagler College/University of Montevallo winner. It will be the Patriots’ first appearance in the championship contest since 2008 and the third all-time (wins in both previous appearances).
It is the first time the Patriots have ever beaten a top-ranked opponent. Twice before in its history, FMU had beaten an opponent ranked number four, including No.4 Flagler earlier this season.
Kwast’s match-winner came at 88:05 on the Patriots’ first shot of the second stanza. Senior Cody Farrier found Kwast open on the right side of the field with a long pass. After taking a couple of touches, Kwast blasted the ball high into the upper netting setting off a wild celebration on the FMU sideline.
Young Harris (16-2-0), which saw its 14-match winning streak snapped, managed one shot at again tying the match and forcing overtime, but it was high over the crossbar in the 90th minute.
Francis Marion shocked the top-seed with two goals in the opening half. The opening score came as a result of rare back-to-back penalty kicks awarded to the Patriots. Kwast was fouled in the box by Mountain Lion goalkeeper Pedro Ozi. On the ensuing penalty kick, senior Alex Blandin’s shot was stopped by Ozi, but as Blandin raced to corral the rebound, he was fouled in the box by Young Harris defender Paco Craig. Kwast then converted the second penalty attempt at 20:53.
In the 31st minute, Farrier gained possession of a Mountain Lion turnover in their defensive half and he chipped a shot from 20 yards out over a hard-charging Ozi and into the goal.
The margin nearly went to 3-0, but Farrier hit the crossbar on a rebound shot near the goalie box at 39:04.
Young Harris came out the aggressor in the second stanza. The Mountain Lions took the opening 14 shots of the second half and tied the match with scores in the 61st and 72nd minutes by William Schonfeldt and Khurram Shazad respectively.
As Young Harris pushed for the go-ahead score, FMU managed a counter attack in the 78th minute and Farrier was fouled by Craig near midfield. Craig was issued his second yellow card of the match and sent off, giving Francis Marion a man-advantage for the final 12:42.
Young Harris would get off two more shots, one that forced a save by FMU freshman goalkeeper Nick Stover at 84:29 before FMU regained the lead.
The Mountain Lions outshot Francis Marion 22-12, while both teams were awarded two corner kicks.
Stover finished the match with five saves, while Ozi made four stops. The biggest save for Francis Marion was likely made by sophomore defender David Sheridan in the fifth minute. PBC Player of the Year Ilija Ilic dribbled around Stover and shot toward the open goal, but Sheridan stepped in and deflected the ball away from the goalline.