GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Two of the South Atlantic Conference’s elite defensive teams collide on Wednesday evening when the undefeated Railsplitters (5-0, 2-0 SAC) pay the Tusculum Pioneers (4-1, 1-0 SAC) a visit for an NCAA Division II men’s soccer slugfest. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in Greeneville, Tennessee
Lincoln Memorial secured the program’s best start since 2005 and won its seventh straight home opener on Saturday by quieting the Queens Royals in a 2-1 overtime thriller. The Railsplitters struck first when George Burne (Carlisle, England) scored in the 32nd minute, but the Royals knotted it up on Luis Campos’s 67th-minute marker.
Less than two minutes into the first overtime period, Victor Peres (Brasilia, Brazil), who made his first appearance of the contest in the 89th minute, knocked in the game winner off of a deflection in the box. That moved Lincoln Memorial to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in SAC play.
Peres became the sixth different player to score a goal for the Railsplitters in five matches this season, which is nearly the same number of goal scorers the team produced in 2014, when nine players found the back of the net over a 16-match span.
Lincoln Memorial’s defensive unit submitted another brilliant performance against Queens, holding their opponent to a goal or less for the fourth time in five appearances. The Railsplitters, who are ranked second in the SAC and 28th in the nation with a 0.80 goals against average, have allowed just 49 total shots and 21 shots on goal this season. By contrast, the Railsplitter offense has produced 75 shots and 38 shots on target.
The Railsplitters will be looking to improve to 3-0 in SAC play for the first time since the 2011 season, when they won their first five league contests and eventually made a trip to the title match of the SAC tournament. Coincidentally, it was Tusculum that ended LMU’s perfect SAC start that season, knocking off the Railsplitters 3-2 in overtime in Harrogate, Tennessee.
With a win, Lincoln Memorial would become just the third team in program history to start its season with six consecutive wins, joining the 2004 and 2005 teams in achieving that distinction.
Senior striker Leonardo da Silva (Itajuba, Brazil) has recorded at least four shots on goal in three of LMU’s five matches this season. The Brazilian leads the SAC in shots with 30 while ranking second in the nation in shots on goal per game with a ridiculous 3.40. Da Silva’s season point total moved to seven, the fifth-best mark in the league, in Saturday’s win over Queens, as he assisted on Burne’s goal.
Know the Opponent
Tusculum – 4:30 p.m.
The defending South Atlantic Conference tournament champion Pioneers are off to a solid start to the 2015 season with a 4-1 record that includes a 1-0 mark in SAC play. Tusculum enters Wednesday’s meeting following shutout wins over both Barton and Queens.
The Pioneers and Railsplitters share two common opponents, as Tusculum lost a 3-2 decision to Lees-McRae and beat Queens 2-0 in its SAC opener, while Lincoln Memorial topped the Bobcats 3-2 and defeated the Royals 2-1 in overtime.
Tusculum is among the top-50 nationally in scoring offense and defense. The Pioneers are listed in the top-3 of the South Atlantic Conference in goals (12), shots per match (15.6) and shot percentage (.154) while ranking 39th in the NCAA Division II in scoring (2.40). Defensively, they are third in the SAC and 48th in the nation with a 1.00 goals against average. Their 60 percent shutout rate is the eighth-best mark in the country.
Cody Kammerzell and Andreas Kvam lead the Pioneers offensive attack with two goals apiece, while Todd Fidler is tied with that pair for the team lead in points with a goal and two assists to his credit. Along with those three, seven different Tusculum players have accounted for a goal.
Junior goalkeeper Jorge Alvarez has played all 450 minutes for the Pioneers this season, posting a 1.00 goals against average with five total goals allowed and 18 saves. Alvarez started last season’s meeting against the Railsplitters, making four saves over 110 minutes of action.
The Railsplitters own a 12-10-3 advantage in the all-time series against the Pioneers, which has featured a number of high-stakes matches since the initial meeting in 1989. Lincoln Memorial has won eight of the last 11 outings including the last three in Greeneville. The Railsplitters and Pioneers played to a 1-1 draw in last season’s meeting. Nathaniel Johnson (London, England) accounted for LMU’s goal in that contest.
LMU women’s soccer
Taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves will be the top priority for the Lady Railsplitters (2-1-2, 1-0-1 SAC) when they travel to Greeneville on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. South Atlantic Conference women’s soccer battle against the Tusculum Pioneers (3-4, 0-2 SAC).
Lincoln Memorial was held without a goal for the third time in five matches in Saturday’s 0-0 double overtime draw with Queens, but it wasn’t for a lack of scoring chances as the Lady Railsplitters registered a season-high 27 shots and 10 shots on goal. That was the most shot attempts in a scoreless performance for the program since they launched 29 shots in a 0-0 tie against Catawba in the semifinals of the 2007 SAC tournament.
Even when factoring in their four-goal outburst against West Alabama in the season opener, the Lady Railsplitters are ranked ninth in the SAC and 172nd in the country in scoring offense with a 1.00 goals for average.
Since the 4-3 win over the Tigers, Lincoln Memorial has gone scoreless against Montevallo, Lee and Queens while registering a single goal against Brevard.
Aside from the Lee match, when the Lady Railsplitters finished with a season-low six shots and three shots on goal, Lincoln Memorial has created a high volume of scoring opportunities.
The Lady Railsplitters are averaging 21.5 shots per match in SAC play and 16.0 shots per match overall, ranking fourth in the league in that category. They have also produced 27 corner kicks on the season, which ranks second in the SAC.
Thankfully, Lincoln Memorial’s defense has held up the fort and kept the Lady Railsplitters out of the loss column in SAC play while the offense tries to get acclimated to a plethora of new pieces.
The Lady Railsplitters are one of two teams that have yet to allow a goal in a SAC match, as goalkeeper Kathryn Lundy (Pinckney, Michigan) notched her second consecutive shutout and third overall in the win over Queens. She made a career-high seven saves in that match, pushing her season total to 20. She is currently third in the SAC with a 0.65 goals against average.
The offense will hinge largely on Michelle Hunter (Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada), who has yet to get going this season. Hunter hasn’t scored since she tallied the first goal of the Lady Railsplitters’ season in the 19th minute of the season-opening win over West Alabama on Sept. 4. Hunter – six goals and two assists in 2014 – leads Lincoln Memorial with 17 shots.
Know the Opponent
Tusculum – 7 p.m.
It’s been a rollercoaster start to the Pioneers’ 2015 season as they opened with losses to West Florida and Tampa before winning three straight matches over King, Union, and Ohio Dominican, outscoring those three opponents by a combined 12-1 margin. Tusculum has been roughed up early in South Atlantic Conference play, though, dropping a 1-0 decision at Queens and falling 6-1 at Lenoir-Rhyne.
There’s been a stark contrast between Tusculum’s offensive production in wins and losses. In their three wins, the Pioneers have averaged four goals and 19 shots, while those per-match numbers dip to 0.8 goals and 8.8 shots in their four losses.
Tusculum is ranked third in the South Atlantic Conference in goals scored with 15 while leading the conference in corner kicks produced (31) when taking the overall statistics into account. When SAC matches alone are considered, though, the Pioneers are 11th in goals (1), 11th in shots on goal (8), ninth in shots per match (11.0) and ninth in corners (9).
The Pioneers are ranked ninth in the conference in goals against average with a 1.86 mark. Opponents have created 49 shots on goal to Tusculum’s 39.
Senior striker Taylor Lewis leads the Pioneer attack with four goals, one assist, 22 shots and eight shots on goal. Payton DeHart, Katja Andersson, Emma Macdonald and Carlie Thornber have contributed two goals apiece, while Carly Mill has a goal and three assists.
Goalkeeper Miriah Martin has played a league-leading 630 minutes for the Pioneers, accumulating a 1.86 goals against average while allowing 13 goals with 36 saves, the fourth-highest mark in the SAC. Martin has two shutouts to her credit.
The Lady Railsplitters defeated the Pioneers 2-1 last season behind Nicole McKinney’s two-goal performance, but that was just the fourth win for LMU in the 19 matches against Tusculum since 2000. The Pioneers own a 13-10-2 advantage in the all-time series and have won the past two meetings in Greeneville.