FORT MYERS, Fla. – After waiting out the four-year Division I transition period since the start of the program in 2007, a few extra minutes weren’t a big deal for the top-seeded FGCU women’s soccer team as freshman Shannen Wacker’s (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa HS) goal in the 107th minute of double-overtime gave the Eagles a 1-0 win over sixth-seeded Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Championship game on Sunday afternoon at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
With the win, FGCU earns the A-Sun’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament and becomes the first team to win the conference tournament in its first appearance since Kennesaw State accomplished the feat in 2007.
The golden goal was setup by a ball sent into senior Gina Petracco (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS), who headed a pass to Wacker on the left side of the goal box. The pass hit Wacker in stride, as she sent a one-touch shot into the right corner of the net to bring the crowd of 1,026 fans to their feet and the FGCU bench onto the field.
“I’m excited for the kids. We had a lot of seniors that helped start the program and to walk away as champions is something they will remember for the rest of their life,” said head coach Jim Blankenship, who has guided FGCU to a pair of A-Sun regular season crowns and a 57-24-10 record since starting the program five years ago. “Shannen was great today and she seized the moment with the game-winner. Mercer gave us quite a battle and I have a lot of respect for them. We are going to enjoy this moment and start practicing for the tournament soon.”
FGCU now stands at 14-4-2 on the season, increasing the program record for single-season wins. The Eagles will now wait for the NCAA Tournament selection show which will be shown on NCAA.com Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The 1-0 win was the Eagles’ second of the season over Mercer with the first coming in Macon, Ga. on October 7. Mercer, the first No. 6 seed to make the A-Sun Championship game, finishes the season with a 10-8-2 record.
Fittingly, the Eagles earned school’s first NCAA Tournament berth with a shutout. The Eagles produced a league-high 11 shutouts during the regular season, including a 908-minute streak without allowing a goal midway through the season. A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Stephanie Powers (Seffner, Fla./Armwood HS) made four saves in goal, increasing her A-Sun career-leading shutout total to 31.
Seven different players saw the full 106:08 on the field for FGCU, as the Eagles went into double-overtime for the fifth time (2-1-2) this season.
The backline of seniors KC Correllus (Merritt Island, Fla./Satellite HS/Florida State) and Kat Hunter (Safety Harbor, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic), along with redshirt junior Ashley Ciesielczyk (Oregon, Ohio/Clay HS) and junior Jennifer Crittenberger (Lighthouse Point, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons HS) played the entire game. Center midfielders Olivia Elias (Coral Springs, Fla./American Heritage-Delray HS) and Danielle Faller (Elizabethtown, Pa./Elizabethtown Area HS) also never left the field and have been a big part of a FGCU unit that has out-scored its opponents 25-2 over the last 12 games (9-1-2).
All 14 of FGCU Division I sports were deemed postseason eligible in August after going through the four-year transition period. Since joining the A-Sun in 2007, FGCU’s programs have won a combined 12 regular season titles, but today’s Tournament Championship is its first.