Carson-Newman scored two first half goals and held off a late Belmont Abbey rally as the Eagles gained a 2-1 men's soccer victory this afternoon at Alumni Field in the season opener for both teams. Belmont Abbey started five freshmen and a goalkeeper that had never before played the position in his first three years in an Abbey uniform.
The Eagles controlled the action early and got on the board first in the 20th minute. Rurik Pereira sent a cross from the right goal line to the right of the goal, where Marius Staalby headed the carom towards the goal. Kyle Searles, in his first career game as a goalkeeper, swatted the ball directly up, and as it came down, Matheus Bachi, from a foot in front of the goal, headed home the winner for the first goal of the match.
11 minutes later, the Eagles added another, as this time Staalby found the back of the net from the far side. Nick Skoda sailed a pass from the right corner, where Ross Frame tipped it further with his toe, right to Staalby on the back post. Staalby touched the ball in with his foot to double the Eagles advantage.
Belmont Abbey had its best chance to score in the 36th minute. After a Carson-Newman foul and subsequent yellow card just outside of its box, Declan McQuillan's free kick sailed to the center of the box, meeting the head of Conor Wells, but his header went right to goalkeeper Rumwald Le Guevel, one of his three saves of the afternoon.
The Crusaders turned up the pressure in the second half, as they outshot the Eagles 6-4. Their only goal, however came in the 76th minute on a penalty kick by Brice Nardozzi. His spot kick was set up by an Abbey counterattack that culminated with a Nick Fuller cross that met the hand of an Eagles defender inside the box. Nardozzi's spot kick beat Le Guevel to bring the Abbey back to within one goal with just under 15 to play, but the Crusaders never threatened again.
Carson-Newman outshot the Abbey 10-9 but the Crusaders held a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
Belmont Abbey must regroup quickly, as it hosts Newberry Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.