JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman faces not just a South Atlantic Conference test in this weekend's trip to Hartsville, S.C. but also its first nationally-ranked opponent with a contest against the No. 15 Coker Cobras on Saturday afternoon.
"It's going to take a full-team effort," Carson-Newman coach Stephen Lyons said. "Coker is a very different team compared to what they have been in the past. That's why they're getting the national recognition they deserve."
Carson-Newman (7-2-1, 3-1-1 SAC) has gone 15-18-5 against ranked opponents since 2003. The last ranked team C-N faced was No. 17 Lander on Oct. 10, 2018. The last time Carson-Newman defeated a ranked team was Sept. 20, 2017 with a 1-0 win over No. 5 Lenoir-Rhyne at McCown Field, also the first time C-N had ever hosted a top-five team.
A win Saturday would mark the first victory on a ranked opponent's home pitch since Nov. 24, 2013, when the Eagles defeated No. 4 Rollins, 2-1, in the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles will be looking to extend their winning streak to three-straight following a 2-1 win at Alabama Huntsville on Tuesday evening. Matheus Maia (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Collin Hensel (Spring Hill, Tenn.) were the goal scorers for C-N in the win, but it was Hensel's game-winner with 24 seconds remaining that made the difference. The redshirt-junior had been on the pitch for just 5:24 before he found the back of the net.
"I think we've got a few players now who are buying into their role, whatever it might be," Lyons said. "That's going to be important whether they're playing a full 90 minutes or coming in off the bench to inject some energy or just something different. Playing that role is going to be key."
Coker (7-2, 3-1 SAC) entered the season with a predicted 10th-place finish in the SAC preseason coaches' poll after posting a 5-10-1 record in 2018, 3-6-1 in the league. Now, it rides into the match with a league-high five-match winning streak. The Cobras have found success in defending their home field this season with a 4-1 record in Hartsville. The group has outscored its opponents 12-4 in those matches with the last three being shutout wins, including a 1-0 win over No. 16 Lander.
First-year coach Michael Antoniewicz's group sits in the top five of multiple statistical categories in the league this season with 23 goals and 11 assists for 57 points. It leads the SAC with a 0.839 save percentage and 5.78 saves per game.
Christian Provenzano and Jacques Fokam-Sandeu have accounted for 14 of Coker's 23 goals scored this season.
Provenzano, the SAC Offensive Player of the Week the past two weeks, leads the conference with nine goals, 21 points, 44 shots, 2.50 points per game and four game-winners this season. Beyond that, the midfielder is the national leader for shots per game at 5.50, second for game-winning goals and third for goals per game. He has scored in seven of the past eight matches, including netting at least one in each of the past five matches. He has scored a pair in both of the past two games.
Fokam-Sandeu has made a splash for the Cobras in his freshman campaign. The forward has tallied five goals with a pair of assists. He is one of the two Cobras who have lined up for a penalty kick this season, netting his attempt in the 3-2 loss to No. 25 Wingate on Sept. 18.
Guilermo Falo Ejea has started in net for all of Coker's games this season. He is the league leader for saves this season with 52 and a .839 save percentage. Against the SAC, he has allowed four goals this season, three of those coming against then-No. 25 Wingate on Sept. 18.
In their seven meetings, Coker leads by a slim 3-4 margin. When the Cobras are hosting, the Eagles lead with a 2-1 advantage. The last trip to Hartsville resulted in a 1-0 loss on Oct. 28, 2017.
Last year's 4-1 C-N victory marked the first-ever win over Coker on the banks of Mossy Creek and was highlighted by Tobias Solem Karlsen's (Kongsvinger, Norway) third career hat trick that came in a span of 27 minutes during the first half. The win was Lyons' 100th career win and his 14th with Carson-Newman.
Saturday's match is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. from the Coker Athletic Field. The folks at Coker will provide a live stream and live stats for the match while real-time updates will shuffle through @CNathletics on Twitter.