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SOCON CHAMPS!!! Furman Soccer Blanks Mercer To Claim SoCon Tournament Title, 1-0

2014 SoCon Tournament Champs
2014 SoCon Tournament Champs

SoCon Championship Video Highlights

Greensboro, N.C. -- Sophomore Lewis Hawke broke a scoreless tie with a header in the 82nd minute and Furman's defense held Mercer without a shot on goal as the Paladins downed the Bears, 1-0, to claim the Southern Conference Men's Soccer Championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night at UNCG Stadium in Greensboro, N.C.

The victory gave No. 3 seed Furman (12-5-3) its 12th SoCon Tournament title and ninth NCAA Tournament bid in school history.  It also marked the first league tournament crown for the Paladins since 2007 and first trip to the "Big Dance" since 2011.

"It's great to win the SoCon Tournament, doing so without being scored on in three straight one-nil wins," said Paladin head coach Doug Allison, who led Furman to the SoCon Tournament title for the seventh time.  "We set out tonight to win for the seniors and keep the season rolling.  This is a special group we have together and winning keeps us together for another week.  We are proud to bring a title back to Furman, will enjoy this victory and prepare for the NCAA Tournament."

With under 10 minutes left in regulation, senior Hart Zwing received a pass outside the top of the box and quickly sprayed the ball wide to sophomore Bobby Edet on the right wing.  Edet curled a cross to the top of the six-yard box where Hawke lunged past his defender to head a shot into the right side netting at 81:17.

Junior goalkeeper Sven Lissek and the Paladin defense notched their third straight shutout and 11th of the season.  Lissek was not forced to make a single save as Furman compiled a 10-6 edge in shots and 5-0 advantage in shots on goal to neutralize Mercer's attack.

Furman opened the match by dominating the possession over the first 25 minutes.  Senior Clint Ritter, who was named the tournament's "Most Outstanding Player", produced the best scoring chance during the opening period in the 11th minute.  The Paladins earned a throw-in and Mercer goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh was drawn out of the goal mouth when Ritter received the ball 12 yards from the top of the box.  The Cedar Hill, Texas, native ripped a shot towards the middle of the goal mouth, but a Mercer defender deflected the drive wide to keep the match scoreless.

Mercer's best opportunity came in the 27th minute as the Bears earned a corner kick, but Chandler Klem's shot from inside the box was blocked and Will Bagrou's follow-up effort sailed high.

Furman controlled the majority of the possession once again in the second half and nearly took the lead midway through the period.  In the 69th minute, Hawke got on the end of a Ritter cross from the right wing only to see his back post header go wide.  Moments later, Edet found room on the right wing and fired the ball across the face of goal to force Ranjitsingh to push the ball out for a Paladin corner kick.

After Hawke gave Furman the 1-0 lead, Mercer (14-7-0) pushed forward and earned four corner kicks over the final six minutes, but the Paladin back line of Eric Steber, Kevin Edelmann, Kyle McLagan and Ritter continued to dominate in front of Lissek to secure the clean sheet.

Furman will learn its opponent, destination and game time in the 48-team NCAA Tournament when the pairings are announced on on Monday at 1 p.m. will have updated NCAA Tournament information immediately following Monday's announcement.  Also, follow @FurmanPaladins and @FurmanSoccer on Twitter for updates.

All-Tournament Team
Jacques Francois, UNCG
Aaron Reifschneider, UNCG
Carlos Dominguez-Gonzalez, Wofford
Charlie Keeley, Wofford
Will Bagrou, Mercer
Greg Ranjitsingh, Mercer
Ashani Samuels, Mercer
Marco Ortiz, Furman
Clint Ritter, Furman
Tony Santibanez, Furman
Eric Steber, Furman
Most Outstanding Player
Clint Ritter, Furman

Jordan Caskey, Furman Sports Information