Bennett
CCU

CONWAY, S.C. -- Striker Ashton Bennett, the NCAA’s leading goal scorer, scored his 22nd and most important goal to date as he netted Coastal Carolina’s eventual game-winner in the 83rd minute to lift the Chanticleers against Elon 4-3 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the CCU Soccer Field.

With the victory, Coastal Carolina advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament where the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels await. 

“I’m really pleased for our guys, Coastal Carolina University and our program,” head coach Shaun Docking said. “We had a lot of alumni come out tonight. This is the 18th win this season and I think it is a remarkable accomplishment for the guys.  I’m really excited for them, proud and honored to be here at Coastal. We knew that Elon had a very explosive team and we knew that we needed to do a really good job defensively.”

After Elon had knotted the game for the third time on a James Carroll goal in the 81st minute, Bennett found the back of the net for his ninth game-winner of the season with just under eight minutes to play. Justin Portillo took a deep throw in on the left sideline where Pedro Ribeiro headed the ball down to Bennett who used his body to deflect the ball inside the near post.

Coastal came out firing in the first half as the team tallied 17 shots. Elon, who won the Southern Conference tournament to punch their ticket into the NCAA tournament, was whistled offside twice in the early going on would be goals. 

After 34 minutes of the sides exchanging possessions, the Chants broke through on the scoreboard as Ricky Garbanzo scored his sixth goal of the season off an assist by Shawn McLaws. McLaws fired a deep shot from the right side of the field that was initially saved by the Elon keeper; however, the ball squirted free and Garbanzo launched an easy shot to give Coastal an early 1-0 lead. 

Elon found the tying goal in the early minutes of the second half. The Phoenix’s Daniel Lovitz sent a long cross in the box to Matt Wescoe who headed it left, where Chris Thomas tracked the ball down and slotted it into the back of the net to knot the score in the 48th minute.

Coastal regained the lead in the 55th minute as Pedro Ribeiro played a deep ball from the left side of the field across the box to a sprinting Garbanzo.  The freshman crossed the ball to the center of the net where a sliding TeeJay East scored his seventh goal of the year.

Elon broke through with its second game-tying goal as Thomas converted on a penalty kick in the 64th minute, knotting the game at two.

Coastal regained the lead in the 72nd minute. Portillo lofted a free kick from near midfield that entered the box was headed away by the Phoenix defense. However, Henrik Robstad headed the ball back into the box where Cyprian Hedrick found an open hole and scored his fifth goal of the year to give the Chants a 3-2 lead.

In the 81st minute, the Phoenix connected on their third equalizer of the game after Carroll slipped a shot into the far post to knot the score at 3-3.

The win was the first for the Chanticleers and the first for a Big South school in the NCAA tournament since the 2003 team defeated North Carolina 3-0 before ultimately falling to Santa Clara 2-3 in the third round of the tournament.