The Memphis men’s soccer team (10-4-0, 4-1-0 AAC) has qualified for the 2019 American Athletic Conference tournament after posting a 2-1 overtime win at home over Tulsa (4-8-1, 0-4-0 AAC) last Sunday. The team was fresh off a disappointing 4-1 loss against the University of Central Arkansas Bears, their largest margin of defeat this season.
Despite a lopsided defeat, Richard Mulrooney’s squad received votes for the third week in a row in the United Soccer Coaches Poll and received votes for the first time this campaign in the Top Drawer Soccer Poll. Mulrooney is proud of his side to make the conference tournament, but it is a different mindset heading into this year’s edition.
“Last year when we did it, we celebrated, but this year we’re raising expectations that we need to do this on a consistent basis,” Mulrooney said. “It’s one check-the-box-off, but there’s bigger boxes to check.”
Recognition was also given to sophomore goalkeeper Parker Lackland and senior forward Sam Ashton, who both made the AAC Weekly Honor Roll for their performance against Tulsa. Lackland is the 12th player to be honored by the conference this season, and after nine weeks, at least one Tiger has earned the weekly honor. The Dallas, Texas native held his own against the Golden Hurricane’s 17 shots, with seven on target. He was able to stifle six of those shots and helped Memphis earn the golden goal in overtime. Lackland put up a memorable performance after missing the UCA game due to injury.
Ashton again was the hero in overtime for the second time this year after a tap-in finish gave the Tigers the victory over Tulsa. The Portsmouth, England native’s first golden goal in 2019 came against then No.10-ranked Xavier when he recorded a hat trick as well.
Ashton missed the previous two contests due to a foot injury, and his goal last Sunday was his 10th tally of the year. The goal came 20 seconds after the start of overtime as Alexandros Ierides and Peyton McKnatt were both precisely swerving past Tulsa’s backline to find Ashton in front of the net. It was a pivotal confidence booster for him after a penalty kick miss earlier in the match.
“I didn’t expect to play today, but somehow I just pushed through,” Ashton said.
No player has had double-digit scores since 2012, when All-American Mark Sherrod finished with 12.
Into the final stretch
With momentum on their side, the Tigers look to extend their program-record 5-0 road win streak against No. 6 UCF, who have not lost once in their last 12 games. The Knights are fresh off a Monday night 3-2 double overtime victory over Stetson as a reminder not to undermine lesser opponents. Memphis will look for their third top-10 win for a first place spot in the conference standings.
“We got two games left, and we have to take them professionally,” said Ben Roberts, a senior defender from Liverpool, England. “All the lads got to be as a unit as well. (There are) no individuals in this team, and I think it’s been like that from day one.”
Kick-off is set for 6:00 p.m. Friday night.
Sam Ashton celebrates a golden goal just 20 seconds after the start of overtime. Memphis defeated Tulsa 2-1 this past Sunday. (Frank Ramirez/ Daily Helmsman)
Sam Ashton controls the ball against Tulsa. Memphis defeated Tulsa 2-1 in overtime this past Sunday. (Frank Ramirez/ Daily Helmsman)