FORT MYERS, Fla. – It took just four short years for the FGCU men’s soccer program to bring an Atlantic Sun Conference championship to sunny Fort Myers, Fla. Defeating Stetson for the first time in program history with a double-overtime game-winner on Friday, the No. 21 Eagles clinched at least a share of the conference championship with a 1-0 victory over the Hatters.
Continuing their run as the last remaining unbeaten in conference play, the Eagles improved to 11-3-2 on the year to stay unblemished in conference play at 7-0. The victory also extended the Blue and Green’s A-Sun home unbeaten streak to nine games (8-0-1) dating back to last season. Meanwhile, the Hatters dropped to 8-4-1 and 5-2 in conference play.
“What a great night for FGCU soccer,” said reigning A-Sun Coach of the Year Bob Butehorn. “I have a great group of guys who have been through a lot and I told them that they have earned it, but they just had to come out and get it. It’s exciting to have my seniors go out with a conference championship and it will be a memory we will always cherish.”
The opening 100 minutes of play were not enough to decide the hard-fought battle between the teams and the game headed to a second overtime stanza. Just 50 seconds into the final frame, FGCU’s leading scorer Deion Jones (Tampa, Fla./Freedom HS) laced a shot on goal which caromed off a Stetson defender into the back of the goal, solidifying the monumental win for the Eagles. The sophomore defender now has a team-high six goals on the year, marking his second goal in as many games.
With emotions running high in the opening minutes of the game the Eagles found a pair of chances in the first three minutes of the game, but were unable to find the back of the net. Freshman Donovan Henry (Parkland, Fla./Stoneman Douglas HS) collected a rebound shot and crossed in for a header finish by classmate Ryan Price (Melbourne Beach, Fla./Melbourne HS) that went just wide of the post.
Shortly thereafter, Jones sent a shot on goal following a corner entry from junior Francesco DiStefano (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola HS), creating work for Stetson’s keeper Andreas Schnabl in the eighth minute of play.
Stetson would get a good look right before the half when Jonathan Mendoza fired a shot at FGCU goalkeeper Adam Glick (Leola, Pa./Conestoga Valley HS), tallying his third save in the frame to preserve his first half clean sheet.
Going into the scoreless intermission, the Blue and Green held a two shot advantage, 8-6, and also took the corner kick battle, 4-1.
The second half played out much like the first, with neither team sending one past the opposing net-minder. FGCU would again find a couple of scoring opportunities in the frame, none closer than the shot off the foot of Alexei Reyes (Dallas, Texas/Jesuit College Preparatory School) at the 89:10 mark that forced Schnabl to record his lone second half save with time winding down.
With the game still scoreless, the teams head to the first overtime with the Eagles continuing to hold the shot count, 15-12, and the corner kick total, 8-2. Neither team would record a shot in the first overtime, therefore the game headed to the final frame, which ended as quickly as it started with Jones finding the back of the net just a few ticks in.
Glick registered just one second half save, and none in the overtime periods, bringing his total to four on the night. Glick now has 25 victories and 15 shutouts for his career. Schnabl finished the contest with just a pair of saves.
Entering the competition, the Blue and Green held a three point lead over Stetson in the A-Sun standings. With the win the Eagles increased their lead to six points (21) with just two conference contests remaining, therefore claiming nothing less than a share of the title. With just one more victory or draw against either Jacksonville (Oct. 29) or North Florida (Oct. 31) next weekend, FGCU would be crowned outright A-Sun regular season champions. Game time against the Dolphins is set for 7 p.m. while the kickoff with the Ospreys is slated for 2 p.m, both at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Tickets for all home events can be purchased through the FGCU Ticket Office in Alico Arena either in person or by phone at (239) 590-7145. Tickets are also available at www.FGCUathletics.com/tickets.