Grace opens NCCAA Nationals with four goals

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Grace’s men’s soccer team began the 2020 NCCAA National Championships with a 4-1 victory on Monday.

The Lancers were clinical against a defensive-minded Central Christian squad, taking advantage of their opportunities to begin pool play.

One more win on Wednesday guarantees Grace a spot in the NCCAA semifinals. Grace faces Carolina University on Wednesday at 5 p.m. to end pool play.

Grace entered Monday’s match with energy, despite playing the conference championship less than 48 hours prior to Monday’s kickoff.

The Lancers controlled the ball and pace of play as the Tigers were content to defend. Central Christian mustered just one shot attempt in the opening half.

The Tigers made a rare foray into Grace’s end of the field with 15 minutes remaining in the half, and Grace made them pay.

After snuffing out CCC’s attack, Joe Bowles launched a punt deep into Grace’s offensive end of the field. Cedric Brenneman controlled Bowles’s punt and deftly chipped a shot over the goalkeeper’s grasp for a 1-0 lead.

Two minutes later, Grace almost scored again. Jules Peycelon tried a 22-yard free kick, and his effort was deflected high in the air which forced an acrobatic save from the goalkeeper.

The 1-0 lead held until halftime. Grace owned a 10-1 edge in shots and took all three corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes.

While the first half was sparse in terms of goal-scoring opportunities, the second half started with a bang.

The Tigers countered to perfection in the first two minutes of the half, shocking Grace with an equalizing goal.

The tie was only intact for three minutes. Ze Maria Goncalves blasted a low cross from the left side of the field. The cross befuddled the Tigers’ defender, who accidentally redirected the ball into his own goal to put Grace ahead 2-1.

After finding a second goal, Grace was largely quiet offensively during the middle portions of the second half. The Tigers’ defensive shell proved hard to crack.

The win was essentially secured for Grace with 15 minutes remaining in regulation. Ulisses Miranda found space for a shot, which beat the goalkeeper but clanged off the post.

Marcelo Talamas was in position for the rebound and poked his shot into the unguarded net for a 3-1 lead.

Miranda found his goal a few minutes later, unleashing a hard shot that found the back of the net.

Grace almost found a fifth goal in the final minutes, but the Tigers withstood the final push for the final 4-1 scoreline.

The Lancers finished the match with a 15-6 advantage in shots. Ten of Grace’s shots were on goal.

Goncalves had four shots to lead Grace, and Talamas, Brenneman and Tyler Brueckman each shot twice.