Pacers fall in Peach Belt soccer title game after lightning delay

MONTEVALLO 4, USC AIKEN 1

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A long lightning delay and an inspirational effort by Montevallo in the second half ended USC Aiken’s magical run Sunday in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

The second-seeded Falcons broke open a tight game with three goals in a 12-minute stretch to claim the championship game, 4-1.

In the women’s title game, Armstrong Atlantic State defeated Columbus State, 2-0.

USC Aiken went 2-1-1 in its final four games of the regular season to grab the final seed for the conference tournament.

The Pacers (6-6-6) then became the proverbial Cinderella, shocking No. 1 seed Lander on the road in a shootout in the quarterfinals. On Friday, USC Aiken defeated Young Harris on penalty kicks to advance to the title game.

“It’s been an amazing season,” said Pacers coach Ike Ofoje, whose team made its first appearance since 2006 in the tournament championship game.

“We knew we had talent, but how we were going to put it together is what we didn’t know. We started off well, slumped in the middle and peaked almost at the right time.

“It’s been a great ride.”

Pacers senior forward Brett Van Pelt added: “It’s tough to say it was a successful season after you lose. In the days and weeks to come, I’ll look back and think it was a successful season.”

In the championship game, Montevallo took an early 1-0 lead on a penalty kick by tournament MVP Pierre Omanga. But six minutes before halftime, Noel Mais scored inside the left post to knot the game at 1-all.

USC Aiken looked to return to the field with the momentum. But before the second half started, a 30-minute lightning delay was called. The players then received an additional 15 minutes to get ready.

“Momentum was on our side. We were feeling it,” Van Pelt said. “We feel like we had them on the ropes. Then, we had the lightning delay. Instead of playing, we had that 45 minutes and it kind of crept into everyone’s minds that it was 1-1 and we were here.”

Omanga scored on a penalty kick at the 56:32 mark to give the Falcons the lead for good.

Then Pedro Carneiro lifted a shot over goalie Brandon Jarosz seven minutes later to push the margin to two. Omanga scored on another penalty kick at the 67:50 to stake the Falcons to a commanding 4-1 lead.

Jarosz, Mais and Van Pelt were each named to the all-tournament team.


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