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Clayton State gears up for Top-25 soccer showdown

From Staff Reports

Off to its best start to a season since 2002, the Clayton State Laker men's soccer team aims to keep "riding the wave" of its current 2010 season on Saturday when the 12th-ranked Lakers play host to 22nd-ranked Flagler in a Peach Belt Conference showdown.

Game time at Laker Field is set for 7:30 p.m.

Clayton State enters the game a perfect 7-0 overall and 1-0 in the Peach Belt after disposing of previously-undefeated Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday. Flagler, meanwhile, is 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the Peach Belt following Tuesday's 1-0 squeaker at Coker. Clayton State is looking to start its season 8-0 for only the second time in program history - the first coming in 2001. This is the first time since the 2007 season that there has been a Division II Top 25 match-up at Laker Field.

"We've been waiting for this game for a year," said Clayton State head coach Pete Petersen, 76-32-15 in his seventh season at the Laker helm. "They (Flagler) are one of the teams to beat in our conference. All their players are back from last season, and they are well-coached."

n their first season in the Peach Belt last year, the Saints ran roughshod over the competition and won the PBC regular season title with a 14-6-2 record and 7-1 mark in the Peach Belt. In addition, Flagler advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament for the first time in a year. One of those victories for the Saints last season was a 4-1 triumph over Clayton State at Flagler.

This game will pit the top two defenses in the Peach Belt Conference going head-to-head. Clayton State has allowed only two goals so far this season for a PBC-leading 0.29 goals-against average and a conference-leading five shutouts. Flagler, under veteran head coach John Lynch, is right on the Lakers' heels, having allowed only three goals for a 0.50 GAA and four shutouts.

The two top goalkeepers will also be matched up with Clayton State's Brian Garcia battling his Flagler counterpart Matt Gilman. Garcia leads the PBC in goals-against average with a whopping 0.15 and five shutouts. He hasn't allowed a goal in 610 minutes, and is ranked third in the nation in goals-against average. Gilman has a 0.50 GAA with four shutouts.

The difference, however, could be the Laker offense, which has improved by leaps and bounds over last season. Clayton State leads the Peach Belt in points scored (59), goals scored (22) and assists (15). Petersen has been able to spread the wealth offensively as 10 Lakers have scored at least one goal this season.

The hottest Laker at the moment is junior forward Ryan Pugh. After not scoring in his first five games, Pugh has erupted with four goals in two games. He is coming off a hat trick in the last game against Lincoln Memorial. Junior forwards Leighton Fredericks and Jonathan Ray also have four goals, while junior midfielder Matty Phillips is tied for the PBC lead in assists with four.