Grace wins pool, advances to semifinals
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Grace’s men’s soccer team secured its spot in the national semifinals for the third straight year on Wednesday.
The Lancers defeated Carolina University 4-1 to win their pool at the NCCAA National Championships. Ulisses Miranda scored two goals in Grace’s win.
Grace will take on Campbellsville on Friday in the NCCAA semifinals, a rematch of the 2019 semifinals in which Grace narrowly won 1-0.
The national championship match is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. The other semifinal match features Bethel against Erskine.
The first 15 minutes of Wednesday’s match saw each team make advances offensively, but the teams could not score early.
Grace struggled to clear the ball defensively in the 12th minute, and the Bruins made Grace pay. Carolina scored on a loose ball in the penalty box to take an early lead.
The Lancers responded with four unanswered goals to win the match.
Grace trailed for less than two minutes. Miranda took a shot at the top of the penalty box in the 14th minute. The ball was blocked but fell to the feet of Marcelo Talamas. Talamas sidestepped a defender and took aim with a low shot that snuck past the goalkeeper.
Carolina nearly retook the lead 18 minutes into the match, trying two challenging shots. But Joe Bowles made a pair of strong saves to keep the match tied.
Grace responded immediately and went ahead. Ze Maria Goncalves made a leading pass to Miranda behind Carolina’s defenders. Miranda collected the pass, dribbled around the charging goalkeeper and slotted his shot into the back of the net.
Eight minutes later, Miranda struck again. Similar to the last goal, Goncalves sparked the play with a long, leading pass. Miranda used his speed and strength on the fast break to beat his defender, and he clinically placed his shot past the goalkeeper for a 3-1 lead.
The Bruins kept pace, equaling Grace with seven shot attempts in the first half. But the Lancers proved to be lethal while beating Carolina’s offside trap.
In the second half, Grace continued to apply pressure on Carolina’s defense. The Lancers peppered the Bruins’ goal with 12 more shots after halftime, despite using a myriad of substitutes.
With 17 minutes remaining, Grace added an insurance goal. Mitchel Strawser curled a dangerous pass into the penalty box, and David Koch tried a diving header. Koch’s shot was saved, but the rebound was scored by Blake Burns in front of goal.
The Lancers outshot the Bruins 19-12 in the match. Overall, 24 of Grace’s players saw time in the match.