BUIES CREEK, N.C. – Justin Franz set up two goals and scored what proved to be the winner in Campbell's 3-2 victory over VMI Tuesday night in the Big South Conference men's soccer opener for both schools at the Eakes Athletic Complex.
Cameron Mulvey scored the first goal of his career and Bryce Miller also added a first-half strike for the Camels (1-1, 1-0 Big South), who out-shot the visitors by a 29-7 margin. Aaron White scored for VMI (0-2, 0-1), which pulled within 3-2 on an own goal with 23 minutes to play.
The result marked the third-straight 3-2 victory for the Camels over the resilient Keydets since Campbell re-joined the Big South Conference in 2011. CU ran its home field record to 12-2-1 since the start of the 2011 campaign.
Playing without injured senior center back Aleksi Tossavainen, who had started 59-straight games in the Camel back line, CU never trailed but also never could pull away from VMI.
"Coming into the game tonight, we hoped the experience of our leaders would come through during the absence of one of our captains. Justin Franz certainly stepped up to help fill that void," said Campbell head coach Steve Armas. "Coming off a loss last week, we had a lot to prove to ourselves and we were able to put together a more consistent performance."
Mulvey put the Camels in front in the eighth minute. The sophomore from Fuquay-Varina headed in Franz' serve for his first career strike.
Campbell doubled its advantage in the 31st minute when Franz' cross was nodded in by Bryce Miller, less than a minute after the junior entered the match.
Mulvey nearly added another in the 42nd minute when his header bounded high off the crossbar. The Keydets, however, pulled one back with just 2:30 remaining in the opening half on a counterattack.
Wes Saupe played a ball down the right side that Aaron White controlled near the top of the area, cut back, and curled a left-footed shot just inside the upper right corner.
Franz nearly pushed the advantage back to two goals in the 47th minute. Tunji Osifeso touched the ball to the senior midfielder at the top of the box and Franz' right-footed drive missed the top right corner of the frame by a foot or less.
A foul just outside the area in the 65th minute set up Franz' direct free kick. The Texas blasted a right-footed shot through traffic into the net for a 3-1 Camel edge.
However, less than three minutes later the Keydets again drew within a lone goal when Franz stretched to clear a low cross, but inadvertently re-directed the ball past keeper Ethan Hall into his own net.
VMI keeper Daniel Kitchen made 10 saves, including one on Isaiah Page's drive in traffic in the 76th minute to keep the margin at one. Ricki Gaez then hit the cross bar just a minute later. Hall dove to save Blake McCauley's drive on a 78th minute counter that proved to be VMI's best chance to equalize down the stretch.
"Although we created plenty of chances tonight, we still have to focus on improving several areas and have a good stretch of training in preparation for our next match," said Armas.
The Camels are off for a week before traveling to Davidson for a 7:00 p.m. start on Sept. 11.