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The 2018 Sun Belt Men's Soccer Championship tourney finally got underway yesterday after heavy rains in the host "city" (Statesboro, GA) forced the first round or play-in game to be postponed on Wednesday evening and the site moved to Morris Field in Savannah for a Thursday afternoon kick-off. With five conference members sponsoring MSOC, the Sun Belt has moved to a play-in format with the #4 and #5 teams matched to win a berth in the semi-finals. In yesterday’s play-in tilt, #4 Coastal Carolina eliminated #5 Howard 2-1.
The semi-finals will get underway at 4 PM this afternoon on Eagle Field at Erk Russell Park in Statesboro with #1 Georgia State facing #4 Coastal Carolina. In the 7 PM nightcap, tourney host and #2 Georgia Southern meets #3 App State. Today's semi-finals and Sunday’s championship match are set for live coverage on ESPN+. Fans may also follow the championship action via Twitter (@SunBelt) or Live Stats available on SunBeltSports.org.
App State and Ga South have met on a soccer pitch 35 times with the Eagles holding a one-match, 16-15-4 advantage. The Apps once held a commanding lead in the series but the Eagles have taken advantage of a long downturn in Mountaineer soccer fortunes. The Eagles have gone unbeaten in the last eight meetings between the two teams. In those eight contests dating back to 2011, the Apps have been outscored 9-1 by the Eagles. Facts hurt if you’re an App fan.
Mountaineer soccer has been on a definite upswing since the arrival of Coach Jason O’Keefe. This year’s team compiled an 8-5-3 overall record while going 2-1-1 in Sun Belt play—good for a second-place tie with (who else?) Ga South. Along the way, the Apps placed seven players on the 2018 all-SBC team—four of whom are underclassmen. The future seems extremely bright. [GSU won the tie-breaker based upon winning this season’s contest 1-0, with the winning goal blasted into the net with six (6) seconds remaining in regulation play on the Eagles’ home pitch.]
So, tonight’s semis match-up is back on the Eagles home pitch—giving them an immediate edge. App fans will watch in hope that, if nothing else, the law of averages might now be on their “side.” The Apps are one win away from the #FunBelt title match with the best “D” in the league.
App State v. Ga South features a matchup with a combined 13 All-Sun Belt selections and the two Sun Belt Co-Players of the Year in Javier Carbonell (GSU) and Jake Chasteen. The two rivals meet for the second straight year in the postseason. Ga South edged App in penalty kicks 5-4 in a 0-0 draw to advance to the semi-finals last year.
App ended this season as the top defensive team in the SBC with only 12 goals allowed, including seven shutouts. Ga South comes into the match with the second-most goals scored highlighted by two of the top six SBC goal scorers in Carbonell (13 goals) and Adam Davies (5 goals).
If it happens to the Apps, it happens to me!