Gaffney, SC – The North Greenville University Men’s Soccer Team will make its first playoff appearance since 2012 with a game at #7 nationally ranked Limestone College on Tuesday, October 31st at 7 pm.
Finishing the year with a conference record of 3-6-1, an improvement from going winless in the conference a year ago, the NGU Crusaders are aiming to avenge their 1-0 overtime loss to Limestone earlier this season. In recent seasons, North Greenville Men’s Soccer has struggled, with a total of just 6 wins combined from 2013-2016. However, having had a taste of success this year the team will be looking to make a conference tournament run, though since joining Conference Carolinas in 2011 they have never beaten the Limestone Saints. Limestone finished the 2017 regular season with a conference record of 9-0-1, and are the top seed coming into the tournament. They have beaten NGU in 8 straight matchups, setting the stage for a true underdog matchup.
Crusaders’ head coach Bill Martin, in his second year with the program, was very proud of his team’s progress and was looking forward with excitement to getting another shot at Limestone. I asked him about what his thoughts were coming into the match, and he said: “We’re stepping to another level that’s very exciting for us, and I think when you do that, the temptation is to make too much out of it, and I’m hoping that we don’t make too much of the moment, but that we rise to the moment. It’s a 90-minute soccer game with boys that are similar ages, and we just want to go play. It’s a tremendous stepping stone for the program, and it definitely gives us a chance to say ‘hey look we are on a much better track than we have been for the last couple years’, and that’s exciting for the guys that are here, it’s exciting for the guys that are coming into the program in the future, and it’s a great stepping stone for us.” Coach Martin has led the team to a 6-19-2 overall record in his tenure as head coach.
The Crusaders are led in scoring by local freshman forward Gareth Greene, who has found the back of the net 7 times this year and is looking to add to his tally against Limestone. I asked him what his thoughts were approaching the game and he said: “It’s going to be a really hard game but if we come out and do our best we can do the impossible.” North Greenville senior team captain Chris Inman commented on the team’s morale coming into the match: “The team is very excited to get a rematch with a team that we played very closely with earlier this season. In playoffs, anything can happen, and the hype of this being the first ever conference playoff game for everyone on our roster is going to bring another level of excitement out of the guys.”
Limestone goalkeeper Mateo Barzola, a transfer from North Greenville who is sitting out this season due to conference transfer rules, said when asked how the Limestone team was feeling: “We’ve been waiting for the conference tournament for a while. We are really looking forward to putting a good performance in, as we really want this season to end with more than one title for us. Of course, we are very excited and confident about our style of play as well.” I asked him how he felt seeing his past team play his current team and he replied: “It’s hard to explain how I feel about my current team facing my last squad, but it’s a positive feeling, because I’m really proud of both teams to make it up to where they are now. The balance is leaning towards Limestone this time, but I wish the guys the best!” Barzola, who hails from Argentina, recorded 130 saves during his time at North Greenville, leading the conference in saves during the first half of the 2016 season before being sidelined by a shoulder injury.
It cannot be disputed that the North Greenville is the underdog in the upcoming game. However, as we all know and love about sports, anything can happen on any given day, and with the season on the line, North Greenville will need to come up with a good team performance in order to move to the next round.