Highland Heights, Ky. – Northern Kentucky scored a goal in the 17th minute and held off USC Upstate for a 1-0 victory in A-Sun men's soccer action Wednesday night at the NKU Soccer Stadium. Despite taking the loss, the Spartans clinched a spot in the A-Sun Tournament for the first time in program history.
Upstate secured its spot in the six-team A-Sun Tournament by virtue of Stetson losing in its final game, a 2-0 loss at Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday. Upstate entered Wednesday's game with a two-point advantage over Stetson in the conference standings. Stetson wrapped up play with its loss to the Eagles and will maintain seven points for the season. Upstate stands 5-9-1 overall and 3-4-0 with nine points in the league. It marks the first postseason appearance for the Spartans since moving to Division I in 2007. The Spartans end the regular season at home on Saturday night at 7:00 playing host to ETSU.
"I am very proud of these players, especially the seniors, for qualifying for the A-Sun tournament for the first time," said Upstate head coach Greg Hooks. "I hope that we are able to extend the season for a few more games."
After opening the game with a pair of shots, Northern Kentucky broke through in the 17th minute. Craig Heard took a cross from Cian Murphy and put a header into the far post to give the Norse a 1-0 lead. NKU got off three more shots before Upstate took its second shot of the half in the 37th minute. The Norse took a 1-0 lead into halftime, along with a 10-2 lead in shots.
The second half was much less hectic offensively. NKU held a 5-3 advantage in shots in the period and a 15-5 lead for the match. Derek Dearmond (Austin, Texas) and Matt Flynn (Greenville, S.C.) each had shots saved by NKU's A.J. Fleak in the half. Flynn's shot came with less than two minutes remaining in the match as Upstate was franticly trying to score.
"We played a tough opponent tonight," said Hooks. "They have a very distinct style and it is effective. We created a few chances, and we defended very hard, but were not able to possess the ball well enough to keep them under pressure for extended periods of time."
Upstate will play Saturday night's game against ETSU for seeding purposes in the A-Sun Tournament. The tournament starts next Wednesday, Nov. 7, and will be played at the No. 1 seed, which is still to be determined.