FGCU Defeats Stetson To Claim First-Ever A-Sun Crown
FORT MYERS, Fla. – On a night filled with the emotion of seeing its first four-year class play its final game, the FGCU women’s soccer team captured its first-ever Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title with a convincing 4-0 win over in-state rival Stetson on a picture-perfect Saturday evening at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
“What a great night. Just so much emotion with senior night, the kids that started our program,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “Four years ago we had nothing and to be able to finish it with a championship is something you can only dream of. I’m so proud of our team. They worked so hard to get to this point and it was a really special night.”
Entering the game two points behind Jacksonville (8-1-1) in the A-Sun standings and faced with a must-win situation in order to win the title, the Eagles took a 1-0 lead into the half and poured in three goals in the second half to surpass the Dolphins by one point. The Eagles finished with 26 points, while Jacksonville had 25.
The 10-member senior class, which helped lead FGCU to 11-4-2 overall record and a unbeaten 8-0-2 record in the A-Sun, played the final six minutes and 11 seconds of their careers together until the final horn sounded.
After finishing one point away from claiming a share of the A-Sun regular season crown in 2009, FGCU’s 8-0-2 record is the 11th unblemished conference record in A-Sun history and the sixth since the A-Sun left divisions following the 1998 season.
The dominating defensive effort was a fitting end to the season for a veteran backline that posted a program-record 11 shutouts en route to a conference title. FGCU shutout eight of its 10 A-Sun opponents this year, out-scoring them 17-2.
Sophomores Brittany Burt (St. Petersburg, Fla./Northeast HS/USF) and Jessica Swartzentruber (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Christian) along with senior Lindsay Haw (Palm City, Fla./Martin County) each tallied a goal and an assist in the game.
After unsuccessfully finishing runs up the left side of the field in the opening 10 minutes, FGCU made good on a long ball played up the left in the 14th minute. Burt found Haw in the perfect spot just inside the box to start the play. Haw then passed it off to junior Olivia Elias (Coral Springs, Fla./American Heritage-Delray), who came streaking into the middle of the six-yard box to put one past Stetson keeper Andrea Garavaglia.
The 1-0 lead held until the 50th minute when Swartzentruber went on a breakaway and split a pair of Stetson defenders to take the ball straight to the net for a 2-0 FGCU lead.
Swartzentruber and Haw put their name on the stat sheet one more time at the 57:17 mark to give FGCU a three-goal, 3-0, advantage. Redshirt sophomore Ashley Ciesielczyk (Oregon, Ohio/Clay) played the ball up the left side to Swartzentruber who found Haw in the middle of the box just in time to tip it into the net. Haw’s goal is her fourth on the season and gives her 23 career goals.
In the 73rd minute, Elias hit a shot that was blocked by a Stetson defender right to a sprinting Burt on the left side. She then fired her second goal of the season into the back of the net to add the final goal at 72:18.
Junior Stephanie Powers (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) picked up two saves in the split shutout as senior Kirsi Keenan (Boca Raton, Fla./Pope John Paul II) had one save in fifteen minutes between the pipes.
For the game, the Eagles held a 16-4 edge in shots and also took the corner kick battle, 6-1.
Despite winning the A-Sun regular season, FGCU cannot compete in the conference postseason tournament due to the NCAA reclassifying period. FGCU will be eligible for postseason play in 2011.
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