Pioneers face challenge with road trip to Young Harris

Pioneers face challenge with road trip to Young Harris

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's soccer team faces a challenging week despite having only one match on the schedule over a span of 11 days.

The Pioneers, who dropped their season opener 2-1 at Emmanuel on Saturday, visit fifth-ranked Young Harris for their third meeting in two years with the Mountain Lions on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Young Harris contest in the only game of the week for the Pioneers, who will then be off until Wednesday, Sept. 18 at King.

A header goal in the 81st minute off a free kick gave Emmanuel a 2-1 victory over the Pioneers on Saturday evening in Franklin Springs, Georgia. The Lions scored twice in the second half after the Pioneers went up 1-0 in the 27th minute on a rebound goal by senior Nikola Vujicic, assisted by Henrique Devens.

Vujicic came to Tusculum from Division I Houston Baptist, where he was held scoreless in six matches as a reserve last season. The Belgrade, Serbia native scored 26 goals in 37 matches across two years for Illinois Central College in 2016 and 2017. He is the first Pioneer to score a goal in a season opener while making his Tusculum debut since Dominic McLaren and Andre De Giorgi each scored in a 3-0 win at King on Sept. 3, 2015.

Senior goalkeeper Alejandro Quiriti finished with three saves for the Pioneers, who outshot the Lions by a 16-10 margin and had a 7-5 edge in shots on goal. Tusculum has not allowed more than five shots on goal in any of its last 16 games, dating to Sept. 19 of last season. The Pioneers have not allowed more than two goals in any of those 16 matches as well.

In addition to Vujicic, three other players made their Tusculum debuts against Emmanuel -- senior forward Luke Murphy, senior defender Xavier Lamour and freshman forward Harry Easterby.

Young Harris also played Emmanuel in its season opener last Thursday at home, and the Mountain Lions earned a 4-0 victory over the Lions. Seba Andreassen scored two goals in the first 19 minutes for the Mountain Lions, who led 3-0 at halftime and added a fourth goal in the 82nd minute on a goal from Rachaun Palmer, assisted by Andreassen. Alex Iglesias made three saves in goal for Young Harris, which outshot Emmanuel by a 28-6 margin.

Wednesday's matchup is the sixth all-time meeting between the Pioneers and Mountain Lions, but the third in the last two seasons. Young Harris beat Tusculum 4-0 in their regular-season meeting in Greeneville on Sept. 5 of last year, then defeated the Pioneers 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament at home on Nov. 11. The Mountain Lions are 3-0-2 all-time against the Pioneers, winning twice with one tie at home.

Young Harris went 17-1-1 last season, rising as high as number one in the country in the United Soccer Coaches Division II poll before being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the third round by Lander by a 1-0 score. The Bearcats also handed the Mountain Lions their only draw of the season at 0-0 in the championship game of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, which Young Harris would go on to win in penalty kicks.

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