EVANS, GA – Francis Marion's Juan Fernandez scored in the first five minutes and the Patriots defense made it stand up as they defeated Lander 1-0 in the Peach Belt Conference men's soccer tournament championship match on Sunday at Blanchard Woods Park. The Patriots win the event as the #4 seed and take the title for the first time since 2008, their third tournament crown overall.
With the win, Francis Marion (15-4-1) receives the Peach Belt's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Lander (12-5-2) will await the announcement of the NCAA field to see if they will play on as an at-large team. The NCAA will announce the tournament field on Monday at 6:30 pm on NCAA.com.
Francis Marion attacked from the starting whistle, spreading the Lander defense. Travis Cooke brought the ball up the middle of the Lander defense before sending it out to the right flat. Fernandez took one touch and launched a curling shot from just outside the 18-yard box that buried itself in the side netting, just 4:04 into the game. The goal was Fernandez's first of the season.
The next 86 minutes were about weathering the storm. Lander outshot Francis Marion 17-7 in the match and took six corners to FMU's three. The Bearcats' best opportunity to equalize came with less than 10 minutes to go as an apparent tying goal was deemed offsides.
FMU goalkeeper Maximiliano Rocco made a season-high eight saves in the winning effort. Lander's Cole Hunter made one save.
PBC All-Tournament Team
Michael Walsh, North Georgia
Piek Koskinen, Flagler
Hector Guttierrez, Clayton State
Geo Rios, Clayton State
Alex Gschwend, Young Harris
Anthony Gimemes, Young Harris
George Knight, Lander
Max McNulty, Lander
Grant Wagner, Lander
Alvaro Zamora, Francis Marion
Javier Bello, Francis Marion
Magnus Hoejland, Francis Marion
Oliver Peters, Francis Marion