VIDEO: Stephen Lyons Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Holding a four-match unbeaten streak, Carson-Newman opens a small but powerful South Atlantic Conference homestand against the regular season co-champions from a year ago, starting with Lenoir-Rhyne on Wednesday afternoon at McCown Field.
Carson-Newman (5-1-1, 2-0-1 SAC) looks to get back in the win column after facing a 1-1 draw at Anderson over the weekend, the team's first tie of the season. The Eagles faced multiple scoring opportunities in the match, outshooting Anderson 27-9 to match its second-highest shot total of the season. They have shot double-digit numbers in all seven of the matches in the 2019 campaign.
"We're just got to believe in our style, how we play and what we're about," Carson-Newman coach Stephen Lyons said. "Defensively, we've got to be really switched on and cut out the little mistakes and then, when we're going forward, take the opportunities when they come."
C-N heads into the match tied at the top of the conference table with Wingate, both teams possessing seven points in league action. Lyons' team has been the top group in the SAC for most statistical categories throughout the season thus far, still currently leading with 158 shots, 20 goals, 17 assists and just five goals allowed. Beyond conference stats, the Eagles are leading the nation in total shots and 22.6 shots per game.
Lenoir-Rhyne (4-3-1, 1-1-1 SAC) enters Mossy Creek with four points in the South Atlantic Conference standings to hold a share of fourth. Its lone conference win came against Mars Hill on September 18 in a 3-1 decision. The last time the Bears were on the pitch, they fell to Queens, 3-1, snapping a four-match unbeaten streak.
Of LR's four wins this season, two came against top 10 teams in the nation. The Bears took down then-No. 9 Barry 1-0 in overtime on September 14. They are a week removed from a road win at then-No. 2 Young Harris, 1-0.
Reigning SAC Coach of the Year Jack Winter's group was predicted to win the conference in the SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll with six first-place votes after earning a share of the regular season title a year ago with Queens. The Bears were 11-6 last season with a 7-3 standing in the conference, earning their first league championship in team history. Their season came to an end in the SAC Semifinals with a 2-1 loss to sixth-seeded Anderson.
"Jack's done a great job both in recruiting and the way he coaches," Lyons said. "The big win at Young Harris midweek last week was a good result. We know they're going to be a very tough opposition – a lot of quality personnel, well-organized. It's going to be a big game for us."
LR returns just two of its six All-SAC picks from last season, those being Victor Cascon and Carles Montoliu Lobo. Cascon also earned D2CCA All-Southeast Region first team honors in 2018.
Cascon leads the team with three goals this season, including the lone goal LR scored at Young Harris, while firing a team-high 22 shots with nine landing on goal. The two-time All-SAC first team selection has 17 goals through his three years with the Bears, 10 of those coming last year alone.
Alexander Langer has played every minute in front of the net this season for the Bears, the most goalkeeper time played in the SAC and third-most in the nation among Division II. He has allowed 11 goals, saved 32 of the 79 shots he has faced while recording three shutouts. He is tied for second in the SAC for saves and shutouts while allowing the second-most goals.
The Eagles lead the series by a slim 20-16-2 margin since 1992 but have maintained an 11-6-0 control when playing at Mossy Creek. The last time the Bears visited Jefferson City, C-N took down the fifth-ranked Bears, 1-0. It was the first time the Eagles defeated a top five opponent since a 2-1 win in the 2013 NCAA Tournament against No. 4 Rollins. That match against LR was also the first time C-N had ever hosted a top five team.
Since 2010, Carson-Newman has gone 4-1 when hosting LR. The Bears have faced back-to-back losses in trips to Carson-Newman just once, falling to the Orange and Blue in 1993 and 1991 in a pair of 2-1 matches.
Last year's meeting resulted in a 1-0 C-N loss at Bears Field, the team's first defeat of the season. C-N was held to just seven shots on the night with two on frame. The game was scoreless heading to halftime, marking the first game in which the Eagles did not score in the opening frame. Goncalo Garcia scored in the 60th minute to give L-R the only lead it needed. It was the first SAC-opening loss since 2015, also falling to Lenoir-Rhyne in that game.
Wednesday's kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. from McCown Field. Fans who cannot make it can enjoy a live broadcast courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network along with live stats and updates on Twitter from @CNathletics.