ANDERSON, S.C. – Entering the weekend as the top-ranked team in the Southeast Region, according the NCAA, Anderson University men’s soccer faces one of its toughest challenges of the season, as the Trojans travel to regionally No. 7 ranked Wingate on Saturday. Kickoff from the WU Soccer Complex is set for 7:30 p.m.
Despite earning its highest regional ranking since joining the South Atlantic Conference, AU looks to fend off its second losing streak of the season after taking matching 1-0 losses to Lincoln Memorial and Brevard. The two-match skid matches Anderson’s previous losing streak, when the Trojans fell to Coker and Queens, respectively, as both losses came after regulation.
Due to the loss on Tuesday and the results from Wednesday, the Trojans find themselves outside of hosting a SAC Tournament match and tied for fifth in the conference standings with a 4-4-1 record. AU, Catawba and Coker all have 13 points, as the trio looks to surpass Carson-Newman, which jumped into the fourth position after a 2-1 road win at Mars Hill. Queens continues to hold the top spot in the league, despite taking its first SAC loss in the program’s history on Wednesday to Wingate.
Redshirt sophomore Andre Carle continues to lead the offensive attack for AU, but has been goalless in Anderson’s last two contests. Carle has scored in bunches this season, having two matches with two goals and opening the regular season with a hat trick against Erskine on Sept. 5. The Normanhurst, Australia native is tied with Wingate’s Pedro Da Silva for third in goals within the conference with 10. Redshirt sophomore Henrique Gazzi and junior Mattias Schyberg rank in the top five in assists with six and five, respectively.
Defensively, freshman goalkeeper Bo Haug is search for his first clean sheet since a 1-0 shutout of Tusculum on Oct. 6. His 49 saves on the year rank fourth in the conference, while his 1.03 goals against average puts him in third.
Wingate comes off its most impressive win of the season, handing Queens its first SAC loss of the season, defeating the Royals 2-0 at home on Wednesday. Da Silva got his 10th goal of the year to tie Carle in the sixth minute of action, while freshman Charlie Machell gave WU an insurance goal in the 29th minute. Goalkeeper Daniel DeGraff earned the shutout and the victory making just one save on the evening.
With the win, Wingate (10-4, 7-2 SAC) is now three points behind Queens, as the duo holds the top two spots in the SAC standings. In the NCAA Regional rankings, Wingate was slotted on the outside looking in, being put at No. 7, as the top six qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs look to repeat last season’s success as WU captured the Southeast Regional championship with wins over Montevallo, Lander and Flagler and eventually advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight when they were eliminated by eventual national champion, Lynn, 2-0.
Da Silva leads the way offensively for Wingate with his 10 goals, while sophomore Shaun Gadsby and Machell follow with six and five goals, respectively. WU has outscored its opponents 33-17 on the year, almost doubling opponents shot total, 89-47.
With DeGraff earning the key victory on Wednesday, the junior has split time with junior Sanjit Kang between the posts. DeGraff has five starts, compared to Kang’s eight starts, but DeGraff leads the Bulldogs is victories with five. Despite giving up the most goals between the pair, Kang has the most shutouts on the team with three.
Despite both programs recent success, Anderson holds a five-match winning streak over WU, which includes three conference tournament wins. The lone SAC loss against the Bulldogs came in the first ever meeting between the schools as conference members in 2010. Since then, AU has rattled off five-straight wins, highlighted by last season’s 1-0 upset victory in the SAC Tournament, en route to AU’s third consecutive SAC Tournament championship.