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Boiling Springs, N.C. -The Gardner-Webb men's soccer team scored two goals in the first half by way of senior Richie Wall and freshman Denzel Clarke to defeat No. 7 Winthrop, 2-1, in the first round of the 2011 Big South Men's Soccer Championship hosted by Gardner-Webb University on Thursday night in Boiling Springs, N.C.

The Runnin' Bulldogs avenged a regular season finale home loss to Winthrop, 1-0, back on November 2nd, by defeating the Eagles on Thursday night for the second-straight year in the first round of the conference postseason championship.

With the win, GWU not only improves to 9-7-3 overall on the year, but advances to the semifinals where the Runnin' Bulldogs will meet the No. 6 seeded High Point Panthers, who upset No. 3 Campbell, on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Greene-Harbison Field.

What started out as a defensive struggle on a frigid November night, picked up around the 25th minute as Gardner-Webb's John Sargent recorded the first shot attempt of the match, which sailed wide left, leaving the score at 0-0.

Minutes later Winthrop's Tomas Brennan posted the Eagles' first shot attempt, as it was on target and hauled in by Gardner-Webb goalkeeper Scott Krotee for his first save of the night.

Gardner-Webb converted on its next scoring opportunity as redshirt-senior midfielder Eric Asanin-Miroux received the ball around the midline and played a pass over top of the Winthrop defense to the left side of the box.  Fellow senior Richie Wall got behind the defense, chased down the ball, took one touch and flicked the ball over the head of Winthrop goalkeeper Enrique Miranda and into the open net in the 29th minute, giving the home team the 1-0 lead.

Looking for a quick insurance goal, GWU's Chris Davis had a shot attempt in the 30th minute stopped by Miranda, while in the 31st minute, Sargent had a shot blocked by a Winthrop defender.

The Runnin' Bulldogs offense kept up the pace, as Sargent, Jovan Ivanovich and Jalen Gathers all recorded shots over the next three minutes of play, only to have the Winthrop defense stand strong with two blocks and a save by Miranda to keep the score at 1-0.

Yet the GWU offense broke through again in the 44th minute, as Sargent beat a Winthrop defender down the right side of the goal box.  The junior midfielder then fired a pass into the middle of the box where an unmarked Clarke received the pass and blasted a shot into the goal, putting the Runnin' Bulldogs up 2-0 just before the halftime break.

The first half started much like the first, as Gardner-Webb's Clarke had a header hauled in by Miranda in the 55th minute, spoiling the Runnin' Bulldogs' chance for another insurance goal.

Despite being down 2-0, the Eagles refused to go away, as both Alex Isern and Andres Pullin posted back-to-back shots in the 60th minute.

After Winthrop's Miranda made two consecutive saves on the Runnin' Bulldogs' next two scoring chances, the Eagles Alex Mantchev gathered in a pass from Mason Lavallet and put his shot past the diving Krotee in the 68th minute to put the Eagles on the scoreboard and cut the GWU lead to one at 2-1 with 22 minutes to play in the contest.

Gardner-Webb again went on the attack, as Davis had another shot attempt halted by Miranda in the 69th minute, while on the other end, Krotee was able to make a diving save on a Lavallet shot in the 72nd minute, keeping the score at 2-1 in favor of the Runnin' Bulldogs.

The Eagles fired off two more shots, both of which were blocked by the GWU defense, over the next 10 minutes of play, as the Runnin' Bulldogs held on to the one point lead as time ticked away.

Both teams' had strong scoring chances spoiled by the other team's goalkeeper around over the next four minutes of play, as both teams' picked up the pace on both ends of the field as the clock wound down.

After GWU was called for offsides in the 89th minute, Winthrop earned a corner kick in the 90th minute, but the Runnin' Bulldogs were able to clear. The Eagles recovered and got the ball into the air in the Gardner-Webb box, and for a moment appeared to score the equalizer, but a scoring attempt in the final minute of play was called off after a handball and GWU was able hold on for the 2-1 victory.

Gardner-Webb outshot Winthrop 15-10 and held a slight advantage in corner kicks 6-5.

GWU's Krotee made three saves in the win, while Winthrop's Miranda totaled seven saves in the loss.

"We were able to take advantage of playing at home and really needed it in a fight to the end with Winthrop tonight," commented head coach Tony Setzer.  "Winthrop's a class program, and (Winthrop head coach) Posipanko is a good friend in this profession. I'm glad that we were able to win for our fans tonight and survive to advance to the next round."

The No. 2 Runnin'Bulldogs move on to the Conference tournament semifinal round for the second-straight year and are scheduled to play Friday at 7 p.m. against the No. 6 seeded High Point Panthers. Gardner-Webb defeated High Point for the first time in its history 2-0 during the 2011 regular season and is 1-5-2 all time against the Panthers.


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