BANNER ELK, N.C. -- The Lees-McRae College men's soccer team advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four after Jamie Bladen's goal in the second minute lifted the Bobcats past the University of Tampa Spartans, 1-0, Saturday night at Tate Field.
Bladen's game winner came on an assist from Jamie Price. Price beat a defender and laid the pass off to Bladen in the center of the field. Bladen was unchallenged and launched a 30-yard shot that hit the crossbar and bounced in.
"I don't look for it, but if it is a chance to shoot I am confident I can hit the target and test the keeper," Bladen said. "It is a team game. I might have scored the goal, but it is a team game. We are glad we made it to the final four, but our goal is to win it (the NCAA Tournament)."
"When I signed Bladen, I knew he was a special talent and he has been proving me right all season and for that I am proud of him," Lees-McRae head coach Chris Whalley said. "Playing in the NCAA Tournament is something I speak to recruits about, and so I am very happy that Jamie, as a freshman, could step up in such in a big game."
Tampa outshot Lees-McRae 10-9, but the Bobcats had four shots on target compare to Tampa's two. Tampa held a slight corner kick advantage, 5-4.
Sean Paradise made two saves in the match, but came off his line to knock away Spartan opportunities to earn the shutout. Ryan Thompson made three saves for the Spartans.
"It is an extremely disappointed and heart broken locker room," Tampa head coach Adrian Bush said. "I am extremely proud of our team, and to see our seniors and what they have become in four years is what all college sports is all about. Those are five great individuals that are going to leave your program."
"I give Lees-McRae a lot of credit, and I think they are a fantastic team and very well coached. I think it was a game played in the middle third and outside of Bladen's shot for the goal, I think both teams defended very well. I think they (Lees-McRae) will represent the South very well in the Final Four, and we have nothing to be ashamed of our side. Hopefully they will come back with a championship."
"I think it was overall our best team performance and our goal keeper was rarely tested today," Whalley said. "To get to the Final Four with this team is an indication of how hard we have worked throughout the campaign. Now we need to continue to work hard in order to achieve our team goals."
Lees-McRae improves to 18-2-1 overall and will make the school's first ever Final Four appearance in any sport when they face Lewis, Thursday, December 3rd in Tampa at Pepin Stadium, the site of the Final Four. Tampa's season ends at 17-3-1 overall.