Wednesday's game pitted two of the Appalachian Athletic Conference heavy hitters when Tennessee Wesleyan College hosted Bryan College. The teams drew 2-2 last season and ended up tied for the AAC regular season championship. Bryan went on to win the AAC playoffs and play in the NAIA National Tournament. This year Bryan have not been outside the national top 20 and were ranked #19, but TWC had something to prove against their old adversary.
Before the game TWC recognized Bryan College head coach Dr. Sandy Zensen who will be stepping down at the end of the season after 22 years at the helm.
The game started well for TWC who came out with a hunger and desire to get the result they craved. TWC were pressuring Bryan all over the pitch and forcing the Bryan players into mistakes. TWC opened the scoring after only two minutes of the game when they won a corner on the right. John Carrier drove it in, the Bryan goalkeeper half came for it and missed it, TWC's captain Billy Sparks arrived on the back post, controlled the ball on his chest and slammed it into the back of the net. TWC kept pressing for a second and came close after some good build up from Pedro Alba and John Carrier, Alba found himself through on goal and slid his shot inches wide of the goal.
After about twenty minutes Bryan began to gain a foothold in the game and were keeping the ball better, but the TWC back four were strong and Bryan didn't really threaten Josh Leader in the TWC goal. It was definitely a half that TWC dominated and they would have been upset that they were only up 1-0 at the half.
Bryan came out for the second half with the intensity and work rate that they are known for, but they kept hitting the brick wall that was the TWC back line and not getting through. TWC made some changes and freshman Trent Turner came on up front, he had the best chance of the half for TWC. They were looking to catch Bryan on the counter attack and when Turner was played through by Carrier he took a couple of touches and as he was being closed down by the Bryan defense managed to get a shot off but the Bryan keeper made a good save. Bryan continued to knock on the TWC door, but they wouldn't let them in and although they had good possession they were resigned to long distance efforts.
As the final whistle blew with the score TWC 1 Bryan College 0 the players celebrated a big win. This is the Bulldogs first win over a NAIA Top 25 team in over ten years.
TWC's next game is at home to another nationally ranked team the University of the Cumberlands on Saturday at 3pm.