by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Nationally-ranked No. 21 Barton College advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 Conference Carolinas Men's Soccer Tournament Monday night with a 4-2 victory over Erskine College.
The Bulldogs, seeded third in the eight-team tourney, will take on No. 2 seed Pfeiffer University on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Gaffney, S.C., home to No. 1 seed Limestone College. The host Saints will square off against No. 4 Lees-McRae College in the other semifinal beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Barton, now 13-5 on the year, rolled out to a 3-0 lead three minutes into the second half, then had a brief scare when the Player of the Year in the conference last season, Andrew Settlemire, scored two goals in a span of just under two minutes for the sixth-seeded Flying Fleet (8-8-2) midway through the period.
However, the Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 in the Southeast Region, received an insurance goal in the 77th minute to go back up by two goals and cruised from there for their second win this year over regional No. 10 Erskine and their sixth victory over a regionally-ranked opponent this season.
Sophomore Alex David scored two of Barton's first three goals, his seventh and eighth of the year. The Raleigh, N.C., resident put the Bulldogs in front in the 17th minute on a goal set up by a pair of passes. Senior Dante De Luca played the ball from the middle some 30 yards out to Kevin Strassburger on the right wing, who fed the ball back to the middle inside the box to David.
In the 28th minute, David started a scoring play with a pass to the right wing to Austin Tausch. The sophomore made a shot attempt that missed wide of the left post, but Jonathan Rembecki was there to follow-up with a shot into the right corner, his fifth goal of the year.
The two sides went to intermission with the score still 2-0, but Barton added to its lead on its first shot attempt of the second period just three minutes into play. Rembecki served a ball over the defense, and David chipped it over the head of Erskine keeper Fiore Costa, who had stepped out on the lob.
Barton enjoyed a 10-2 advantage in shots at that point, and the Bulldogs continued their assault by taking the next four attempts over the next 12 minutes of play.
Up 3-0 on the scoreboard and 14-2 on shot attempts, the Royal Blue and White seemed in total control until the 62nd minute, when Settlemire ripped a shot from the right wing past Barton keeper Jens Madsen Hordvik and into the net for his 11th goal of the season.
Just under two minutes later, Joe O'Neill served a ball from about 35 yards out in the middle of the field into Settlemire, again on the right wing, and the senior from Beaufort, S.C., produced the same result, driving it home for his 12th goal of 2014.
For all of Barton's domination, it suddenly found itself in a one-goal game with 25 minutes remaining and momentum clearly on the other side. Settlemire narrowly missed a hat trick in a span of six minutes when his third attempt from the right wing narrowly missed wide right, and Heafield also had an attempt that missed to that side of the net as Erskine continued to press.
Shortly after Hordvik saved a shot by Jack Power at the 75:43 mark, Barton turned the tide back in its favor when senior Erik Pajunk served a ball from the middle of the field to Strassburger on the left wing, who dribbled around the keeper Costa and tapped the ball into the net for his fourth goal of the year and BC's fourth of the night.
Strassburger nearly had another goal a minute and a half later when he ripped a shot from the far right wing toward the left post, but Costa dove to deflect it away.
At that point, momentum had shifted back to the Bulldogs, and BC had two more shots saved by Costa as it attempted to put away the win. Settlemire had one more quality look that narrowly missed wide left with just over four minutes to go, but Barton finished off the clock to advance to the tournament semifinals for the third straight season.
The Bulldogs finished the match with a 20-13 edge in shots, including an 8-4 advantage in shots on frame. Costa recorded four saves for the Fleet, while Hordvik collected a pair for Barton.
Surprisingly, there were no corner kicks in the match for either side.