VIDEO: Stephen Lyons interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – There is just one more home match standing between Carson-Newman and the month of November as the Eagles welcome Queens to McCown Field on Saturday night before hitting the road for five-straight matches.
It has been just over a week since the Eagles (5-2-1, 2-1-1 South Atlantic Conference) last saw a win on the home pitch, winning a third-straight game on the banks of Mossy Creek over King. Since that win, C-N faced a draw with Anderson and a loss to Lenoir-Rhyne on Wednesday evening. The loss snapped a five-match home winning streak that dated back to last season.
"We've got to just bounce back today in practice, getting prepared for another big game against Queens," Carson-Newman coach Stephen Lyons said. "We've got to get back to the basics and start getting our identity back. If we can do that, again, I think it's another tough game so we've got to come ready to play.
The loss moved C-N down to a tie for third on the league standings with seven points. Just two points ahead in second-place sits Queens (6-2, 3-1 SAC) with a month of the regular season still to play.
The Royals head to Jefferson City on a three-match winning streak, the second-longest currently in the SAC. They have allowed just two goals in that time. On the entire season, they have allowed the second-fewest goals in the league with seven, five of those coming against SAC opponents.
Entering the season, Queens was predicted to finish second in the SAC after winning a share of the regular season title in 2018 with Lenoir-Rhyne. It went 10-6-1 last year with a 7-3 record in league action. The Royals were eliminated from the conference tournament by C-N in the quarterfinal. Their stint in the national tournament was also short-lived thanks to a 3-2 loss to Tusculum in the opening round of the Southeast Regional.
"We know they're a good team," Lyons said. "The results speak for themselves on that. We know defensively they're well-organized and have got a few dangerous players going forward. Quite similar to what you're going to see from a lot of conference teams."
Ninth-year coach Oliver Carias' team brings back just two of its six All-SAC picks from a year ago, those being defender Michael Hornsby and goalkeeper Sebastian Kalk.
Hornsby has provided a helping hand in four of the Royals' 14 goals on the year, giving him a share of the third-most assists in the conference this season. Through the first eight games of the season, he has already matched his assist total from each of the last two years.
Kalk has been the primary Royal in net this season, starting in all eight matches they have played. He has saved 35 of the 97 shots he has faced this season, allowing just seven goals. His two shutouts this season came over Limestone and Chowan. He leads the conference with an .833 save percentage and an .85 goals against average.
Transfer junior David Alvarez leads Queens with five goals on the season while also leading with 11 points, 15 shots and two game-winners. He is tied for third in the conference for goals this season while sitting in a tie for fourth on points. His two game-winning goals are also good enough for the second-most in the league.
The Royals and Eagles will meet for the 13th time since 1992 with C-N holding a slim 6-5-1 advantage in the series. The two sides have met four times in the past two seasons, twice in both the regular season and SAC Tournament quarterfinals.
This will be the first time since 2017 that Queens ventures to Mossy Creek. That season saw the teams split their meetings, Carson-Newman winning in the regular season before seventh-seeded Queens eliminated second-seeded C-N from the SAC Tournament on a penalty kick in overtime of the quarterfinal.
The last time the two sides faced off came on Oct. 30, 2018 with second-seeded Queens hosting seventh-seeded C-N. The Eagles got the better of the Royals with a 2-1 upset to advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2015. The win was highlighted by a two-goal performance from Tobias Solem Karlsen. His first goal came in the 25th minute but Queens answered just moments later when Edmundo Robinson dished out a pass to Alberto Morales to even the match at one in the 32nd minute. Around 14 minutes into the second half, a strong cross from Ashley Kelynack ended up with Karlsen again. His possession led to a flick into the back of the net for the game-winner. The win marked the first road win in the SAC Tournament since a 2-1 victory over Mars Hill in 2001.