FGCU Keeps A-Sun Regular Season Title Hopes Alive with 2-0 Win Over Stetson
|FGCU||39:33||SMITH, Jelani (CRESPO, Federico )|
|Stats at a Glance||STET||FGCU|
|Shots (on Goal)||7 (3)||12 (7)|
Eagles turn attention to regular season finale at first place Mercer
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Goals by seniors Jelani Smith (Mississauga, Canada/Rick Hansen Secondary) and Andres Navas (Miami, Fla./Sunset Senior HS/FIU) kept their hopes for another chance to play in front of their home fans alive, as the FGCU men’s soccer team moved into second place in the Atlantic Sun standings with a 2-0 shutout win over visiting Stetson on a chilly-for-Florida Wednesday night at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Needing a win to keep the possibility of winning its third consecutive A-Sun regular season crown and host duties of the conference postseason tournament intact, FGCU (8-5-2) pushed its A-Sun home win streak to 17 games as it moved into sole possession of second place with 16 points (5-1-1).
The Eagles sit two points back of first place Mercer (6-1/18pts) with one game remaining, which, oddly enough, is against the Bears in Macon, Ga. on Saturday at 7 p.m. FGCU will need a win (3pts) to claim the regular season crown, while Mercer only needs a tie (1pt). The top two seeds get a bye into the A-Sun Tournament semifinals, as third place ETSU (5-2/15pts) is just one point back of the Green and Blue with a finale at USC Upstate (3-4/9pts) remaining.
“Every game since our opening weekend of conference play has been like a postseason game for us and tonight was no different,” said head coach Bob Butehorn. “The guys did a great job of working themselves into a couple of goals and played hard the full 90. We’ve got to maintain and take the current mentality we have into every match the rest of the way.”
FGCU will enter Saturday’s showdown with Mercer on a five-game win streak, the program’s longest streak since 2010 when it reeled off eight victories in a row. As it has done during the whole win streak, the FGCU defense turned in another impressive performance with its fourth shutout in the last five games. Sophomore keeper Nathan Ingham (Ontario, Canada/Keswick HS) made three saves on the night to help guide the unit that features three freshmen and two sophomores to the program’s 20th shutout in A-Sun regular season action since joining the league in 2007.
Smith’s third goal of the year came in the 39th minute when sophomore defender Federico Crespo’s (Heredia, Costa Rica/St. Paul College/Universidad Latina) corner kick from the right flag found the middle of the box. The ball deflected out of a group right to Smith, who perfectly struck a shot off the bounce into the left side of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Still maintaining its 1-0 edge with less than 20 minutes to play, FGCU was granted a penalty kick after a Stetson hand ball in the box. Navas stepped over the ball to square off against Stetson’s Andreas Schnabl and beat the keeper with a well-struck shot into the left side netting.
The two-goal lead was never in danger the rest of the way, as the Eagles remained perfect at 8-0-1 this season when scoring first. The game-winner was the second of the season for Smith, who also provided the winner against Conference USA Preseason favorite South Carolina on Sept. 8.
FGCU stretched its win streak against the Hatters to three games, as it finished with a 12-7 edge in shots and 6-3 advantage in corner kicks. Seven of FGCU’s 12 shots found the frame, forcing Schnabl to make five saves.
Saturday night’s showdown at Mercer can be seen for free via A-Sun TV on www.FGCUATHLETICS.com. Live updates can also be found on twitter @FGCU_MSoccer.
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