Men’s Soccer hosts No. 23 Furman in SoCon opener
GREENSBORO, N.C.—UNCG men's soccer opens defense of its 2010 Southern Conference regular-season championship when the Spartans host No. 23 Furman, 7 p.m., Saturday at UNCG Soccer Stadium.
Saturday's match is a battle between teams picked to finish in the top two spots in the SoCon preseason poll. Preseason favorite and 2010 SoCon Tournament champion UNCG received six-of-seven first place votes while last year's regular-season co-champion Furman earned the other.
UNCG (3-4-0) is looking to build on last weekend's 4-0 home win over Gardner-Webb, a victory which snapped a three-match losing streak. Junior Ross Burki had a pair of goals against the Bulldogs while junior Hakan Ilhan recorded two assists. Junior goalkeeper Peyton Ford earned the shutout by making four saves.
Furman (8-1-2) enters Saturday's match riding a nine-match unbeaten streak following a 2-1 win over USC Upstate on Tuesday. The Paladins haven't lost since suffering a 1-0 setback to then-No. 22 Duke on Aug. 29, a team the Spartans defeated (3-2) in their season opener.
The Paladins have proven to be one of the nation's top defensive teams through the season's first month, allowing just seven goals and posting five shutouts. Goalkeeper Alec Kahn has played every minute in the net and owns a 0.61 goals-against average.
The Spartans are led offensively by Ihan's four goals and three assists, though he hasn't scored since netting two goals in a home win over North Florida on Sept. 9. Despite the drought, Ilhan ranks third in the SoCon and 43rd nationally with 1.57 points per game.
Fans are being encouraged to wear gold to the game as part of UNCG's "Gold Out" promotion, and 250 rally towels will be given away at the match.
• Head coach Justin Maullin is 15-10-4 (.586) in his second season with the Spartans
• Tonight's match is the 26th meeting in the series between the Spartans and the Paladins, with Furman holding a slim 13-12-1 advantage. The Spartans, however, have won the last four meetings including a 1-0 overtime victory in the 2010 SoCon championship match.
• The Spartans are 1-3-1 in their last five SoCon openers. UNCG's last conference-opening win was a 2-0 win over Furman in 2009.
• Junior goalkeeper Peyton Ford earned his 10th career shutout in last Saturday's 4-0 win over Gardner-Webb, moving him into a tie for third in the UNCG record books. Current assistant coach Jay Benfield (2001-5) is next on the list with 14.
• Junior Ross Burki enjoyed the first multi-goal game of his career last Saturday, scoring a pair of second half goals in UNCG's 4-0 win over Gardner-Webb
• Freshman David Reittinger scored his first collegiate goal against Gardner-Webb, netting the game-winner in the 34th minute
• UNCG closes out its three-match home stand against High Point on Oct. 5