BUIES CREEK — In a back-and-forth battle played on a slick field, Campbell’s Franck Momo provided the winner in the 81st minute to lift the Camels over UNC Wilmington, 3-2, in men’s soccer on Tuesday night at the Eakes Complex.
Ranked No. 8 in this week’s South Region poll, Campbell (5-2-1) never trailed, but UNCW (4-3) equalized twice, the last time after CU’s George Bediko was sent off with 20 minutes remaining after he was issued a second yellow card.
Momo’s deciding goal came from the penalty spot after UNCW keeper Gabriel Perrotta was whistled for fouling Jalen James in the area.
“I’m proud of the boys’ effort and commitment tonight, especially when we went a man down to fight as a group,” said Campbell coach Dustin Fonder. “We have a lot of respect for UNCW’s program. Anytime we play them, it’s a big game. We’re happy to get a win tonight in that big game.”
Tyler Young’s Big South-leading fifth goal of the season put the Camels ahead in the 24th minute. The red-shirt sophomore scored directly off a corner kick when his in-swinger beat Perrotta at the far post.
The lead stood until the 47th minute when UNCW equalized through grad transfer Dylan Sadler. Omar Aboutaleb struck a near-post corner that Sadler flicked on and slipped inside the far post to score against his former team. Sadler spent the previous four seasons at Campbell and helped the Camels win back-to-back Big South titles in 2018 and 2019.
Just over seven minutes later, Daniel Hernandez controlled Momo’s cross just inside the box, turned and curled a shot inside the left post for his fourth strike of the season.
In the 70th minute, Bediko was carded for a foul just outside the Camel box and CU played a man down the rest of the way. On the ensuing free kick, Nicolas Molina’s shot was blocked, but the rebound came out to Jaden Strumeier, whose low shot through traffic drew UNCW level at two.
Just after the Camels took the lead, CU weathered a flurry of shots — two by Jacob Evans that were blocked, and the final rebound that fell to Ryan Graham, whose attempt slid low and just wide right.
CU nearly added an insurance goal when the Camels broke out on a 3-1 advantage, but were flagged for offsides just inside the UNCW half.
Campbell finished with a 15-11 edge in shots, including a 7-1 advantage in the opening half, and had 10 on target. Edu Rodriguez made one save in the Camel nets, while Perrota had seven stops for UNCW, which entered the contest ranked No. 4 in the Atlantic Region.
The Camels defeated UNCW for the second time in the last three meetings and improved to 28-24-2 in the all-time series, which dates to 1966.
Now 21-2-4 in their last 27 matches at the Eakes Complex and unbeaten in their last five at home (4-0-1), the Camels close out a string of three straight in Buies Creek Saturday at 7 p.m. in their Big South Conference opener against Radford.
(Campbell media services provided the basis for this report)