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Lander downs Francis Marion behind Lofts' hat trick

Lander downs Francis Marion behind Lofts' hat trick

GREENWOOD – Sam Lofts netted a career-high three goals as the Lander men's soccer team continued its perfect conference start with a 3-0 win over Francis Marion on Wednesday night.

Lander (6-2, 3-0 PBC) extended its winning steak in Peach Belt regular season play to 12 consecutive matches. The Bearcats also earned their sixth win in the last eight meetings against Francis Marion (4-3, 0-2 PBC)

The win was Lander's largest win over FMU since 2011 and the Bearcats' largest margin of victory in a PBC shutout since blanking UNC Pembroke 9-0 last Oct. 19. The meeting was the 51st overall between the Bearcats and Patriots, the most-played series in Lander men's soccer history.

"I thought we were really good tonight," said head coach Lee Squires, "similar to the Clayton State game. I thought we controlled much of the match. Our defending was solid and we got the early goal which really settled us down. To go 3-0 in conference before anybody else has everybody else looking up at us. All we can do is keep winning and see where that takes us."

Lander's class shined on Wednesday as the Bearcats outshot Francis Marion 20-8, put 11 on frame and forced Patriot freshman Raul Guillamon Bejar into five saves.

Lofts began his hat trick in the 3rd minute when a pass from Oliver Brock led to a goal from the right side of the box. The senior forward found the back of the net 12 minutes later on a sliding shot after a Robbie Young pass to give the Bearcats an early 2-0 lead.

Lander began tacking on insurance goals in the second half, as Young tapped in a loose ball following a Brock free kick in the 50th minute. Lofts completed the hat trick, the first for Lander since Kevin Durand's four-goal performance against North Greenville on Sept. 14, 2013, off another assist from Young in the 61st minute. 

Dean Cowdroy made three saves and collected the 11th clean sheet of his career as Lander extended its streak of holding opponents scoreless at home to over 335 minutes.

Lander hits the road for its next two matches, traveling to Catawba on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7:00 p.m. before returning to conference play at North Georgia on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m.