USC Sumter men’s soccer team improved to 7-6 on the season with a tense 2-1 victory over Cape Fear Community College in their home finale on Wednesday afternoon. The seven victories sets a new program record for wins in a season for the Fire Ants.
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USC Sumter jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and then held on for 75 minutes thanks to timely defense and an excellent performance from freshman goalkeeper Ethan Funderburk.
A pair of former Sumter High School standouts provided the offense for the Fire Ants.
Sophomore Christopher Reyes struck first, netting his third goal of the season just over two minutes into the game to give USC Sumter an early 1-0 lead. The goal was assisted by Connor McAlister.
McAlister followed just six minutes later with his ninth goal of the season -- a spectacular kick from distance -- to stretch the Fire Ants lead to 2-0. Reyes returned the favor, assisting on McAlister’s goal.
“I think those two goals early were huge,” said USC Sumter head coach Skottowe Fox. “Last time we played them we got a lead real early and then got a little complacent. So, to just jump out at the beginning and score early and keep the pressure on was tremendous for our confidence, and I think that helped us settle into the game.”
Cape Fear finally broke through with 32:21 left to play in the second half to cut the deficit in half. The Fire Ants defense held strong, however, despite the fact that the Sea Devils maintained possession for most of the second half and had numerous chances from inside the box.
“We gave away two really soft goals last time we played this team, so I think that was big on our minds,” said Fox. “That last ditch defending, the intensity, and really the concentration. Great communication from the guys all day to help with that.”
Funderburk finished with seven saves, including several in the final minutes to preserve the victory.
“I thought Ethan made the saves he had to,” said Fox. “They didn’t have too many that were real trouble for him, and sometimes that’s more difficult when you have to be inactive for such long stretches and then on a moment’s notice have to come up with something big. I thought he did a really good job, and just played a smart game. He knew when to push the tempo, and when to hold and slow things down.”
USC Sumter now needs to beat Patrick Henry Community College this coming Saturday, and hope Cape Fear loses their next two games in order to be eligible for the postseason.
“Tremendous work from the boys all season,” said Fox. “Immense improvement over last year. The effort has not dropped for a moment. The guys have been focused, and committed for the entire season, and that’s incredible to see as a coach. We’re still looking for that perfect game, which is good, because maybe we’ve saved it for the end when it matters the most.”
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