CONWAY — The Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team won’t do much to help its RPI this week during the Big South Conference tournament as it continues to play foes from the opposite end of the Division I spectrum, but all the Chanticleers can do each game – no matter the opponent – is reinforce why they have earned their No. 8 national ranking.
And that certainly seemed to be their intent Tuesday night.
The Chants dominated possession and peppered Presbyterian with shots all night on the way to a commanding 5-0 win over the visiting Blue Hose in the opening round of the conference tournament.
Coastal (17-1-2) posted a 37-1 advantage in shots while picking up its 14th straight win to set up a semifinals matchup with High Point on Friday in Greensboro, N.C.
“We’re still trying to make a statement,” senior forward Ashton Bennett said. “I mean, a result is a result – it [doesn’t] matter the opponent. We try to use every game as a game to improve on whatever our weaknesses and whatever we need to improve on, so we didn’t take the game lightly or anything.”
Bennett scored his team-leading 14th goal, sophomore Ricky Garbanzo netted his 12th, senior Sean McCormick contributed a goal and a smooth assist and sophomore Henrik Robstad and junior Matt Risher added scores as part of that overpowering offensive attack.
The shutout was the seventh in the last 10 games for Coastal, which has allowed a total of seven goals during those 14 straight wins. Presbyterian (4-16), meanwhile, picked up four red cards while finishing with seven players on the field and coming one more red card away from being forced to abandon the game.
Overall, CCU coach Shaun Docking thought it was just an ugly game all-around.
“They were just a poor team tonight, and I don’t think we were a lot better,” Docking said. “We dropped to their level and we just weren’t very sharp tonight, so the game just deteriorated. It’s a shame, but I guess that’s just what it is.”
Garbanzo started the scoring in the 21st minute, heading in a rebound after Bennett hit the crossbar with his own shot. Later in the first half, McCormick scored his second goal of the season on a nice feed from sophomore Shawn McLaws. And the Chants put the game away in the second half as Bennett scored off a beautiful right-to-left cross from McCormick in the 50th minute, Robstad knocked in a header in the 58th and Risher punched in the final goal in the 74th.
Coastal entered the game ranked in the top-10 in five different national polls, including No. 8 designations by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Soccer Times.
The Chants are vying for their third straight NCAA tournament appearance and could be in line for a first-round bye and second-round home game if they can finish off a perfect conference run with the league championship this weekend.
“At this point, we’ve just got to win and advance, so I think we’re happy about that,” McCormick said. “I think we still know that we’ve got a lot we need to work on, so we’ll keep working. Our ultimate goal is [the College Cup in] Alabama, so we’ll keep working until that.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Federico Bertele was announced earlier in the day as the Big South’s defensive player of the week. While he didn’t have to do much Tuesday night, he has been steady all season for Coastal and had three saves to help contain a solid High Point offense in a 1-0 win in the regular-season finale last week.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.