The top-ranked Wingate University Bulldogs took down eighth-ranked and defending national champion Pfeiffer University 1-0 Friday night in front of a capacity crowd at Wingate’s Pride Park in the NCAA Southeast Regional championship match. The Bulldogs improve to 16-1 on the year, winning their second regional championship and advancing to Sunday’s Elite Eight in Wingate. Pfeiffer ends its season at 19-3 overall.
Pfeiffer entered the match as the nation’s most prolific offense, scoring 100 goals while leading the nation in virtually every offensive category. Wingate is ranked fourth in goals-against average, allowing only eight goals in 17 matches this season. The Bulldogs notched their ninth shutout of the year Friday night, handing Pfeiffer its first shutout since the 2014 season, when the Falcons were blanked in the NCAA regional semifinals. Pfeiffer scored 56 goals in their last nine matches, coming off a 6-1 win over Lenoir-Rhyne in the regional semifinals, but could not find the back of the net against the Bulldog defense, anchored by three All-SAC and All-Region selections.
“This was by far the best atmosphere we’ve ever had here,” head coach Gary Hamill says. “It was a great college game, a great atmosphere from Pfeiffer fans and Wingate fans, it was incredible. We just beat one of the best college teams I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The first half went by scoreless, with the Falcons out-shooting Wingate 6-2, holding a 5-1 advantage in shots on goal. All-American goalkeeperPablo Jara (Santiago, Chile) piled up five saves in the first 45 minutes, with the first coming 19 minutes into the match, while notching three saves in a seven-minute stretch midway through the half. Wingate’s lone shot on frame in the opening half came from senior Aksel Juul(Newcastle, England), but his effort was stopped by Pfeiffer goalkeeperTomas Correa.
Wingate struck in the 63rd minute. All-American Jon Ander (Bilbao, Spain) started the play, bouncing one forward towards Juul, who beat his defender, then chipped it over the keeper and into the net to make it 1-0. The three-time All-Region selection has six goals on the year, while Ander now has a team-best 11 assists this season.
Jara piled up seven saves to notch his ninth shutout of the year. In addition to shutting out the nation’s best offense, the dominant Wingate defense held Pfeiffer more than 12 shots below its season average. Correa had one save for the Falcons on the night.
The Bulldogs are back in action Sunday afternoon, hosting No. 14 Tampa in the NCAA National Quarterfinals at 1 p.m. in Wingate. The Spartans defeated No. 18 Palm Beach Atlantic 3-2 in the South Region championship match earlier Friday in Wingate. The winner of the Wingate-Tampa contest advances to the NCAA Final Four in Kansas City, Mo.