RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Joao Paulo Antonio scored a pair of second half goals and Eduardo Zurita added a goal and an assist to lead the University of Rio Grande in a 4-1 win over Bethel (Tenn.) University in the opening round of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Tournament, Saturday afternoon, at Evan E. Davis Field.
The top-ranked RedStorm, the tourney’s top seed, improved to 19-1 with the victory – its first in three all-time outings against the Wildcats.
Bethel finished 10-7-1 with the loss.
The win sends Rio into the tourney’s second round where it will face 16th-seeded Union (Ky.) on Monday, Nov. 30, at 11 a.m., at the Seacrest Soccer Complex in Delray Beach, Fla.
Union, which advanced to the second round with a 1-0 double overtime win over Lyon (Ark.) on Saturday, handed the RedStorm their only loss this season on Oct.3 in Barbourville, Ky.
Antonio, a sophomore from Sao Paulo, Brazil, snapped a 1-1 tie just over 15 minutes into the second half when he headed in a crossing pass from Zurita – a freshman from Barcelona, Spain – from the far right win.
Twelve minutes later, Antonio managed to steal the ball away from Bethel net-minder Mark Weir near the top of the 18-yard box and fired a shot into an open net for a 3-1 RedStorm lead.
Zurita closed out the scoring with 12:07 left in the game off an assist by senior Luiz Filho (Sao Paulo, Brazil).
“I thought we started out well in the first 20 minutes of the match, but then we lost the momentum,” said Rio Grande head coach Scott Morrissey. “We made a few adjustments at half and played a much better second half. I also thought we were very sound defensively in the second half. We limited their chances to just a few set pieces. We just need to put a full 90 minutes together.”
Rio took a 1-0 just 13:47 into the contest when junior Heitor de Melo (Sao Paulo, Brazil) rifled a direct kick from the top of the 18-yard box into the net, but Bethel tied the score on a penalty kick with 12:20 left before the intermission.
The RedStorm finished with a 27-8 edge in shots, including a 10-2 advantage in shots on goal.
Freshman goalkeeper Ben Martinez (Montpellier, France) had one save in the victory for Rio Grande.
Weir stopped six shots in a losing cause for the Wildcats.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.