The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s soccer team began their conference schedule this past weekend with back-to-back wins, giving them a huge advantage and great momentum for what lies ahead.
Friday night, the Eagles faced the Jacksonville Dolphins. Only 26 minutes into play the Dolphins put a shot past the FGCU goalkeeper and the Eagles spent the remainder of the first half trying to come from behind. With only 28 seconds to play in the first half, freshman Tessa Berger, assisted by Melissa Arnold, headed a shot from the corner and scored, giving the Eagles a tie going into the second half.
Fans waited for the match to go into overtime as the clock ticked down until the 88th minute of play, when senior Kayley Clay scored the game-winning goal with as assist from Sarah Lowicki.
“We really picked up our game during the second half,” Clay said. “We started to really play as a team to make things come together.”
FGCU outshot Jacksonville 16-7, with nine shots on goal. The win was an exciting moment for the team and gave them great drive moving forward to Sunday.
“Conference is a dogfight. We started out well but the first shot against us was a goal,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “Then you’re battling to get back in the thing and fortunately for us, we got a great goal right before half which settled things down. I like the way we pushed it and got rewarded with a nice goal at the end, but that’s the first time we’ve ever beaten them. To get three points is huge. It’s a great start to the conference.”
On Sunday, the Eagles faced the University of North Florida Ospreys. Both teams came onto the pitch strong defensively and it showed when the first half remained scoreless. Then during the 71st minute of play, sophomore Paulina Speckmaier got a shot passed the Ospreys’ goalkeeper with as assist from Tabby Tindell, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
From that point on the pitch looked tilted. The Eagles played offensively in the Ospreys’ end, outshooting UNF 10-3 during the second half. Speckmaier scored her second goal of the match unassisted during the 81st minute. With fans positive that her goal sealed the win for the Eagles, Shannen Wacker came out only four minutes later to put another shot in the net for FGCU.
The final score ended 3-0, giving goalkeeper Brittany Brown another shutout for her career.
The Eagles go on the road this weekend to face Northern Kentucky on Friday and then Lipscomb on Sunday. “Going on the road is always tough,” Brown said. “We just try to treat it like it another home game and bring it. It’s always nice beating someone on their home turf.”
Beginning the conference slate 2-0 is a huge advantage for FGCU and something that is a first for the Eagles. This past weekend was exactly what the team needed to get keyed up for the road trip.
“Anytime you can start the conference run 2-0 and secure the six points is a big weekend,” Blankenship said. “These were tough match-ups and in all fairness, the score wasn’t reflective of the game. Our goalkeeper, Brittany Brown, kept us in it. We could have easily been down 2-0. She made the saves we needed her to make to keep us afloat. Then we were persistent and we were rewarded with a couple of great goals. Typical match-up with this team, they’re very good. We have a ton of respect for their coaching staff and their program. The road is never easy. We look forward to the challenges that lie ahead of us.”
After the matches on the road, the Lady Eagles will return home to face East Tennessee State University at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11.