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Apr. 18—HIGH POINT — Overcoming an early defensive breakdown, High Point University claimed its first Big South men’s soccer tournament championship Saturday.

In front of a healthy crowd dominated by students, the top-seeded Panthers took control late in the first half and defeated No. 3 seed USC Upstate 3-1 at Vert Stadium.

With the victory, HPU (12-1) earned the Big South’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

It was the program’s sixth appearance in the title game.

MD Myers scored twice for the Panthers and Ashton Perkins tallied once. Alex Abril, Caco Fernandez, Josh Dubost and Mason Mercy were credited with saves.

After the final whistle sounded, the Panthers gathered together, compacted in a ring and jumped and down.

All of the scoring came in the first half.

Trailing by a goal, HPU got on the board when Myers tallied for the first time with just under 12 minutes gone in the half.

Abril advanced the ball on a break and passed to Myers. He shot from near the top of the box and curved the ball around the goalie, who came out to defend.

Three minutes later, Myers scored again, taking a cross from Fernandez into the middle of the box and sending the ball over the keeper.

HPU notched its third goal with 30.9 seconds left in the half on a sequence that started with Mason Mercey sending a corner kick into the 6-yard box. Dubost headed it to the ground and Perkins shot it into the net.

The Spartans (6-4-2) put the Panthers in a hole just 66 seconds into the game when Moss Lewis booted a crossing shot from the upper left the box into the goal near the right post.

Play became chippy in the second half and Javier Torres of Upstate received a red card with just 27 minutes remaining..

HPU finished with advantage in shots 18-8 and shots on goal 7-3. Keeper Trent Holden had three saves,

HPU defender Nick Phipps was named tournament MVP, and Phipps, Marcey, Myers and Lalas Ayertey made the all-tournament team.