GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- For the second time in as many weeks, the Tusculum men's soccer team battled a nationally-ranked opponent to a draw as the Pioneers and 13th-ranked Lincoln Memorial played to a 0-0 stalemate Wednesday night in their South Atlantic Conference opener at Pioneer Field.
The Pioneers (0-2-2, 0-0-1 SAC) and Railsplitters (3-0-1, 0-0-1 SAC) met in a rematch of last year's SAC Championship final, won by Tusculum in double overtime, but instead played to a draw for the fourth time in the last six meetings between the schools. Last Wednesday, the Pioneers played to a 1-1 tie on the road against Young Harris, which was ranked 11th by the United Soccer Coaches at the time of the match.
Lincoln Memorial keeper Caleb Cothrin made just four saves in the match, but each stop prevented what were outstanding scoring opportunities for the Pioneers. Tusculum has been thwarted by hot keepers through their first four games, scoring just once in those four contests while conceding just three goals.
The first shot of the match came from LMU's Philip Wong in the ninth minute, but was collected by Tusculum keeper Alejandro Quiriti who was making his Pioneer debut. Quiriti added a stop on Diego Zannoni in the 21st minute and Felipe de Sousa a minute later, before watching Victor Peres fire the rebound of de Sousa's shot over the crossbar.
Tusculum looked to open the scoring on a shot from Rocco Menna in the 39th minute, but Cothrin was up for the challenge on a dive to keep the match scoreless. Lincoln Memorial had a 7-2 edge in shots in the opening half, but Quiriti was credited with three saves.
The Pioneers threatened again in the 52nd minute on a shot from 20 yards by Edgar Cervantes that was saved on a dive by Cothrin. Quiriti responded in kind in the 64th minute as he smothered a try from Peres with his legs from about 15 yards out. Another effort from Peres at the top of the box in the 70th minute was cast aside by a kick from Quiriti for his fifth and what would be his final save of the evening.
Cothrin was tested again in the 80th minute on a shot by Oscar Rubio Jimenez that was blocked on a dive toward the right post. Jimenez had the final chance of regulation but fired wide left from about 10 yards out with just over a minute to play in the second half, and the teams headed to overtime scoreless.
Wong had the Railsplitters' only shot attempt of the first overtime, but missed to the right from a sharp angle. Tusculum's best scoring chance of the first extra period came when Andreas Kvam beat Cothrin to the top of the box for a loose ball, but was unable to collect the chip until just before the end line and out of danger from scoring.
Kvam had an excellent chance in the second overtime as his run down the right side created a one-on-one situation with Cothrin, but he had no time for little more than a lunging tap at the ball which Cothrin was able to handle. Menna also had a chance from inside the 18 late in the second overtime, but the LMU defense blocked the attempt.
The Railsplitters finished with a 12-10 edge in shots, while the Pioneers had a 7-5 edge in corner kicks. Tusculum was whistled for 22 fouls to 17 by the Railsplitters, and each team had two yellow cards and were offsides twice in the match.
Tusculum will set out on the road this weekend for a SAC match at Lenoir-Rhyne, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 Saturday evening from Hickory, North Carolina.