FGCU women’s soccer to face USF in Tampa for first match of NCAA tournament
Ally Kasun breathed a sigh of relief as Western Michigan’s name appeared next to Florida during Monday night’s NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament Selection Show.
With Florida and Florida State’s names crossed off the list of potential opponents, the FGCU women’s soccer team was happy to see that it would be staying close to home in the first round of the NCAA tournament, facing South Florida in Tampa Saturday.
“I was nervous we were going to get Florida,” Kasun said. “I know we can keep up with them, but ultimately, I wanted USF.”
Kasun wasn’t alone.
“We figured it was going to be someone in state,” Tindell said. “There are so many good teams coming out of Florida. Florida and FSU are great teams —but USF has been running with them throughout the season.”
In the Eagles’ first two attempts at an NCAA first-round victory — first in 2011, then again in 2012 — the Eagles were picked to play Florida in Gainesville. FGCU defeated Florida in a preseason exhibition game in Gainesville this summer with a 1-0 finish.
The stage is set. FGCU will face USF at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Corbett Soccer Stadium in Tampa.
FGCU hasn’t played USF since August 2013, which ended in a 2-1 result for the Bulls. USF is 2-0 all-time against FGCU. Both games were preseason exhibition games with the final score of each game being determined by one goal.
“It’s not going to be an easy game,” Kasun said. “It’s a battle the whole way through every time we play them. They’re very technical and a good group. I think as long as we go out and show out what we are capable of, then we can get a win.”
FGCU claimed its fourth Atlantic Sun Tournament championship title and NCAA bid with a 5-0 win against Lipscomb in Fort Myers Sunday Nov. 8. FGCU, who scored a total of 10 unanswered goals in the postseason, comes into the tournament on an eight-game win streak, recovering itself after an injury-ridden nonconference season.
Tabby Tindell, the FGCU statistical leader and A-Sun Player of the Year, suffered a potentially season-altering knee injury along-side Ashley Parks, who will sit out for the rest of the season due to a MCL and ACL tear she incurred during the Eagles’ game against Cal State Fullerton in September.
Although Parks will not return for FGCU’s potential first-ever NCAA win, Tindell is firing on all cylinders. In the past month, Tindell has scored 11 goals for the Eagles — including one in the championship Sunday — bringing her total for the season to 17.
“We’re definitely hungry for that first NCAA win. We want it bad, ” Tindell said. “I think that that drive is what’s going to get us through this week and hopefully keep us focused and keep us steady going through it.”
FGCU secured its spot in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a 5-0 win against Lipscomb in the A-Sun Conference championship final Sunday afternoon, earning an automatic bid to the national tournament.
Last year, FGCU played host for the first time in school history to an NCAA tournament with the first round match between FGCU and Auburn in the women’s soccer NCAA tournament. FGCU fell to the Tigers, 1-0.
“Hopefully this is the year,” said FGCU head coach Jim Blankenship. “In the last three years, we’ve been getting closer. In 2011, we had a hard time competing against the Gators. The next year, it was 2-0, and we got it to 2-1 with 18 minutes to go. Last year at home, we lost 1-0 in a game that was very evenly played and lost Tindell in the first 10 minutes. It kind of felt like we’ve gotten better as we’ve progressed throughout the years.”
The Eagles enter the tournament with a 13-5-2 record, going undefeated in the conference, 6-0-1. After dropping the ACC championship game to Cincinnati in penalty kicks, the Bulls enter the tournament with an at-large bid with a 15-3-3 record, a program best since 1998.
“I’m extremely confident in this group,” Kasun said. “I think it’s definitely a game that I think we can get a win in.”
The FGCU Dirty Birds are offering free tickets to this weekend’s first round game provided by The Eagles Club. Students must email Kevin Thurman at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure a ticket by 5 p.m. Thursday. Students must have their own transportation.