LEXINGTON, Va. - To say that Virginia Military Institute’s Saturday afternoon men’s soccer match against Gardner-Webb University was physical might be an understatement. Both the Keydets and Runnin’ Bulldogs combined for nine cards, but Gardner-Webb rallied for a 2-1 Big South Conference victory.
The Keydets got a career first from sophomore Travis Borkey, who put VMI up 1-0 in the 27th minute. Senior Aaron White, who has now scored a point in four of VMI’s last six games, banged a set piece pass to Borkey to earn the assist.
Gardner-Webb got its goals in the second half as Ali Al-Gashamy potted his second of the year in the 52nd minute, getting the assist from Dustin Peyton. The Big South’s leading scorer was the difference maker in the game, scoring unassisted in the 74th minute to seal the victory.
Despite the final foal total, VMI was out-shot 14-3, including 8-1 in the second half. Neither keeper made a save in the second, with Keydet Daniel Kitchen stopping two shots in the first half, while Gardner-Webb’s rookie goalkeeper, Matthew Swan, did not register a save.
The Keydet offense was paced by Borkey, who mustered a pair of attempts, including one that just skimmed the left goalpost in the 68th minute on a breakaway. Borkey’s classmate, Andrew Starnes, played a long pass to Borkey up top and the goal scorer nearly had a second marker in a one-on-one opportunity.
Junior captain Blake McCauley, the only other Keydet to record a shot, had another chance for VMI in the 20th minute. On a corner kick from Borkey, the captain put a beautiful header on frame, squeaking it past Swan. But the Bulldog keeper, who has played every second for Gardner-Webb this year, was bailed out by Kevin Comevallus on a defensive save.
Gardner-Webb (6-6-1, 3-3-0 BSC) held a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks, taking four in the first half.
In a very chippy contest, nine players were booked, while the two teams combined for 31 fouls. Gardner-Webb was called for 13 fouls and three yellow cards while VMI was whistled 18 times and saw six yellow cards, including one double, handed to Keydets. Looking to mount a comeback, VMI played the final seven minutes short a player.
Al-Gashamy tied the game up in the 52nd minute, positioning himself at the top of the box before taking a pass from Peyton, who was low on left side of the field. Peyton sent the cross in for Al-Gashamy to one-time shot home. Clarke, who now has league-leading 12 goals, dribbled through the Keydet defense before taking his shot just outside the box for the goal.
After enjoying the chance to play at home, VMI returns to the road, albeit a short road trip, Tuesday night as the Keydets head to Blacksburg, Va. VMI takes on a Virginia Tech team that has one goal since Sept. 17, Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Thompson Field.