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Women’s Soccer Shoots Their Way Into Back-to-Back ASUN Conference Titles

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

On Nov. 5, FGCU women’s soccer defeated the University of North Alabama to defend their ASUN Conference Championship and repeat as champions.

The Eagles reached the ASUN Conference Championship, entering as the third seed. They defeated seventh seed Austin Peay at home, 3-2, before advancing to the semifinals, where they shut out second seed Central Arkansas, 2-0, in Nashville to move on to the finals.

As kickoff got underway in the ASUN Championship game, FGCU began on the back foot. The North Alabama Lions outplayed the Eagles, slicing through their defense to put pressure on goal early. Ultimately, this led to the Lions scoring two goals in the 29th and 30th minute, with a third goal only nine minutes later to give North Alabama a 3-0 lead before halftime.

Heading into the second half, the FGCU needed to change momentum to return from this deficit of three goals. Eagles’ sophomore midfielder Erika Zschuppe took control, scoring the following three goals to tie the game up. Sophomore midfielder Eden Bretzer assisted each goal to force overtime.

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Neither team could break through in the full 20 minutes of overtime. Up next were penalty kicks. FGCU made three out of their shots during penalty kicks, while North Alabama only made two of their shots. This 3-2 win in penalties crowned the Eagles as the 2023 ASUN Conference champions.

The ASUN Tournament MVP went to Zschuppe who led FGCU to their dominant comeback in the second half. Alongside Zschuppe, sophomore forward Kendal Gargiula, junior midfielder Ashley Labbe and freshman goalkeeper Olivia Molina were also named to the ASUN All-Tournament Team.

At the conclusion of the season, FGCU led the conference in multiple categories. Labbe led in shots and shots on goal, averaging 4.06 and 2.13 in each. FGCU, as a whole, led in assists with 39 throughout the conference.

Additionally, six Eagles were named ASUN All-Conference Team selections. Zschuppe, Labbe, Gargiula and junior defender Reese Mendenhall earned First Team All-ASUN honors. Junior midfielder Katharina Oelschlaeger was named to the Third Team All-ASUN and Molina landed a spot on the ASUN All-Freshman Team.

With the conference championship victory, the Eagles were granted an automatic bid into the NCAA Women’s College Cup. Their first-round matchup sent them to Lubbock, Texas, against the second seed and No. 4 team in the country, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders entered this game with a record of 15-1-4 and a Big-12 Conference record of 8-0-1.

The Eagles’ appearance in the NCAA Tournament last year ended in a first round exit to first seed Florida State University, as FSU went on to the semifinals. FGCU’s previous NCAA Tournament endeavors have gone to no avail, as their record in the NCAA tournament was 1-7 coming in. FGCU’s only victory came against the University of South Florida back in 2015. 

Even with these shortcomings, FGCU junior midfielder Courtney Corcoran was confident that they could bring the fight to Texas Tech. In an interview with FGCU Athletics, she discussed what the Eagles needed to do going in.

“Going into this game against Texas Tech, we know they’re going to be tough so we just have to come out strong, give it all we got and fight,” Corcoran said.

On Nov. 10, the NCAA Tournament began. The Eagles started their game against the Red Raiders, matching their every move early on. Texas Tech got eight shots off in the half while FGCU got off four shots of their own. This back-and-forth battle continued through the half with the score 0-0.

However, the second half was a complete turnaround for the Eagles for all of the wrong reasons. FGCU allowed 11 shots on goal before they were able to get a shot of their own on goal against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had 18 shots in the second half, while the Eagles were only able to get two shots off. This led to Texas Tech scoring a goal in the 78th minute to take a late lead, defeating the Eagles 1-0 in round one of the NCAA Tournament.

FGCU could not pull off the upset against Texas Tech, but it was still a season to remember for the Eagles. FGCU finished the season 12-5-5, won back-to-back ASUN Conference championships for the first time since 2016 and 2017 and they were able to achieve an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.

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