Eagles improve to 7-0-2 in A-Sun; take over first place
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Junior Olivia Elias’ (Coral Springs, Fla./American Heritage-Delray) first career multi-goal game helped the FGCU women’s soccer team shake off a slow start and explode for four consecutive goals en route to a convincing 4-1 Atlantic Sun win over visiting Lipscomb on Sunday afternoon at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
“Great comeback win today. The team showed a lot of character,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “After giving up the first goal, we did exactly what I hope we’d do and that’s inspire us to work harder.”
The win gives FGCU (10-4-2) four double figure win seasons in the first four years of the program and puts the Eagles in sole possession of first place in the A-Sun standings heading into next Saturday’s season finale against in-state rival Stetson (7-9-1, 4-4-1 A-Sun). FGCU now stands at 7-0-2 in the conference with 23 points and currently owns a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2) in league play dating back to last year.
FGCU will play for its first A-Sun regular season title on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. against the Hatters on Senior Day. The first four-year class in program history, the 10-member senior class can help the Eagles win the A-Sun with a win over Stetson. In different scenarios, FGCU can also win the regular season crown with a Jacksonville (11-4-2, 7-1-1 A-Sun) loss at UNF; or a tie against Stetson and a Jacksonville tie at UNF.
“Going into the year if you have a chance to make it a one game season for the league title, we will take that,” said Blankenship. “We have an important weekend ahead of us and a tremendous opportunity, but reality is we have to play better than we played today.”
In a season in which FGCU has posted nine shutouts, the offense was the highlight of the day. The Eagles’ four goals is their second-best total of the season and their best in A-Sun action in 2010.
Elias had a hand each of the team’s first three goals, picking up a pair of goals and an assist to finish with a five-point afternoon. Redshirt junior Kathleen Hunter (Safety Harbor, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic HS) and junior Stacey Payne (Coral Springs, Fla./American Heritage-Delray) each tallied their first goals of the season, giving FGCU 15 different players with a goal on the year.
After a sluggish opening 30 minutes, FGCU nearly took the lead when Elias slipped a shot past Lipscomb keeper Erin Zerio, but the ball hit the far right post.
Lipscomb broke the scoreless tie at the 33:46 mark on a shot by Courtney Williams that glanced off the top of the cross bar and into the back of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The one-goal deficit marked the first time the Eagles have trailed in a game since Sept. 12 against Marist.
With its six-game shutout streak that stretched 604 minutes now over, FGCU responded with the equalizing goal less than six minutes later when Elias knotted the game at 1-1. Friday’s hero, redshirt sophomore Ashley Ciesielczyk (Oregon, Ohio/Clay HS) dribbled through the Lipscomb defense before playing a through-ball to Elias who was able to slide and flick a shot by the keeper with 39:23 on the clock. The goal was Elias’ second of the year.
The Eagles used the momentum from the equalizing goal and just one minute and 39 seconds later took their first lead of the game as Payne picked a perfect time to notch her first goal of the season. Elias started the play by finding junior Gina Petracco (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS), who then entered the goal box and found Payne with a pass right in front of the goal for the 2-1 advantage.
FGCU made it a two-goal, 3-1, lead when senior Lindsay Haw (Palm City, Fla./Martin County HS) streaked up the middle of the field and split the Lipscomb defenders to find Elias waiting in the left side of the box. Elias notched her second goal of the game on a quick touch past Lipscomb’s keeper to the right side of the net.
A breakaway from freshman Jenci Villaverde (Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside HS) was halted by a Lipscomb foul in the box to give the Blue and Green their fourth penalty kick of the year. Hunter was brought from the back field to take the shot and drilled it into the net to give FGCU its final tally on the board at the 60:11 mark.
Lipscomb was able to put up three shots in the final 45 minutes, but the strong play of junior Stephanie Powers (Seffner, Fla./Armwood HS) shut down any threat of a comeback. Zerio had six saves as the Eagles fired 12 second half shots and 10 on target throughout the game.
Tickets for FGCU’s final game against Stetson are on sale and can purchased through the FGCU Ticket Office in Alico Arena either in person or by phone at (239) 590-7145. Tickets are also available on www.FGCUAthletics.com/tickets. Live stats, box scores and recaps for every FGCU contest are available at www.FGCUAthletics.com. Live updates of FGCU’s games can also be followed on www.twitter.com/FGCUEagles.