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by Colleen McNickle
The Radford men’s soccer team defeated UNC Asheville on their own turf to clinch the Big South regular season championship. This match not only continues a three-game winning streak, but it also marks the ninth shutout this season.
The Highlanders (13-3-1, 7-1) got off on the right foot early when sophomore midfielder Jakob Strandsäter scored in the 6th minute. The score came off an assist from sophomore defender Michael Walsh. It wasn’t long before the Highlanders scored again when the two switched roles with Walsh scoring in the 20th minute, this time assisted by Strandsäter. The Bulldogs (6-12, 5-3) were unable to score on either of their first-half attempts and did not get an attempt in the last 24 minutes of the first half following Walsh’s score.
Radford came out firing again in the second half with five shots in the first 15 minutes. They finally broke through with another score from Strandsäter. This time Sweden-native was assisted by freshman midfielder Wyatt Erzen. The Bulldogs attempted to comeback, making three shots in the final 10 minutes of the match, but they were unable to land any.
This game marks the third straight year the Highlanders have won the Big South regular season championship. The last time a Big South school has accomplished this feat was in 2013 when Coastal Carolina finished their three-year regular season championship win streak. The Highlanders are also one clean sheet away from tying Radford’s all-time record of 10 back in 1991. This game also solidified the Highlanders small allowance of scoring in conference play, having let go only two scores in eight matches. Goalkeeper Aitor Pouseu Blanco matched the all-time Big South record in shutouts with his 24th.
“I am incredibly proud of this group,” said Radford Head Coach Marc Reeves. “To win the regular season championship three years in a row is phenomenal. We only allowed two goals in conference play, which is not easy to do. It’s not been a smooth sailing season. Our group has done an incredible job at staying together and keeping the process moving along. I am proud of our seniors and thankful to our group that stuck together. They were reward with a great regular season and that top overall seed.”
Radford’s next game will come in the Big South tournament semi-finals, where they will face either fourth-seeded Liberty or fifth-seeded Presbyterian. The single-elimination match kicks off at 7 p.m. in Cupp Stadium on Nov. 9.