By Matt Green
ROME -- Visiting Union University got two first half goals over a three minute stretch then withstood Shorter University's late charge to score a 3-1 victory over the Hawks in a Gulf South Conference men's soccer matchup at Ben Brady Field on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 2-2-2 overall and 1-1-1 in the GSC. Shorter falls to 2-5-1 overall and 1-3 in league play. Both Union and Shorter are in their first season as affiliates of the NCAA Division II and Gulf South Conference.
Union struck early against a Shorter unit that was looking to build upon an impressive 2-1 victory at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Thursday -- the program's first Gulf South Conference victory.
Alysson Mohl managed a one-time finish off a corner delivery from Guilherme Celli in the 16th minute for a 1-0 Union edge. Celli created yet another opportunity moments later for the guests, sending a low cross through the box and onto the foot of Guilherme Reis, who volleyed his attempt into the upper left corner of the cage to put the Bulldogs ahead 2-0 in the 19th minute.
It was more of the same from Union early in the second half. Chip Crockarell embarked on a run down the right side and found teammate Alex Pratt on the far post with a looping cross. Pratt headed home the finish just inside the framework to increase Union's advantage to 3-0 with 46:48 remaining in the game.
The Hawks picked up the energy midway through the second stanza, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Irvin Espinal was the beneficiary of a Union foul in the penalty area in the 64th minute. He smashed home the ensuing penalty kick -- his team high fourth goal of the season -- to cut Shorter's deficit to 3-1.
But although the Hawks registered three corners and three quality chances in the final 35 minutes, including a close range header from Robert Ochieng that was saved by Union keeper Matt Kesler -- the Bulldogs kept Shorter off the board and held onto their lead until the final horn.
Union held a 16-12 advantage in shots, including a 9-5 edge in the second half. Both teams won three corners on the day.
Espinal paced Shorter offensively with five shots, two of which were on frame. Ochieng fired three shots and Guy Hunt two for the Hawks.
Shorter returns to the pitch on Friday, September 28 when it welcomes GSC foe West Alabama to Ben Brady Field for a 7:30 pm kick-off.