Bobcat rally falls short against No. 19 Clayton State in NCAA Tournament opener

Box score

MORROW, Ga. --- The No. 19 Clayton State University men's soccer team scored a pair of first half goals, and held off a furious second-half rally by sixth-seed Lees-McRae College to advance to the second round of the NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Championship on Wednesday afternoon.

Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Ryan Pugh (Fayetteville, Ga.) found the back of the net twice in the first half, tallying his 14th and 15th goals of the season to pace the Lakers (17-3). Freshman forward James Galvani (High Wycombe, England) posted his 11th goal of the campaign for the Bobcats (13-5-3), while LMC's Justin Jones (Jamestown, N.C.) and Clayton State's Leighton Fredericks (Johannesburg, South Africa) and Kevin Rodriquez (Duluth, Ga.) each recorded an assist in the match.

Pugh opened the scoring in the closing seconds of the seventh minute, taking advantage of a breakaway opportunity following a pass from Rodriguez and finding the back of the net to give Clayton State an early 1-0 lead. The 5-10, 170-pound forward doubled the advantage just before the interval, scoring his second goal of the match off a cross from Fredericks in the 43rd minute to send the Lakers into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

Galvani kick-started the comeback bid late in the 50th minute, controlling a long throw in from Jones at the top of the CSU area and delivering a brilliant strike into the back of the net to cut the margin to 2-1. The Bobcats would go on the attack with renewed fervor over the final 30 minutes, out-shooting the Lakers by a 5-3 margin over the remaining half hour, only to be denied by the staunch Clayton State defense.

Lees-McRae ends its season with a 13-5-3 record, having advanced to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance after capturing the program's fourth consecutive Conference Carolinas regular season title. The Bobcats are expected to return 16 lettermen for their Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship squad, including all-Conference Carolinas First Team selections David Palmer (Gateshead, England), Luke Duffy (Wakefield, England), and Luke Perry (Cheshire, England).

- LMC -