NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Atlantic Sun Conference men’s soccer preseason co-favorites met on a chilly Saturday evening in a crucial league match, and a second-half strike was the difference as host Lipscomb (11-3-1, 3-1-1 A-Sun) defeated FGCU (5-6-4, 3-1-1 A-Sun) by a 2-1 margin.
Lipscomb took a 1-0 lead at the 17:54 mark, but Henry Penagos (Margate, Fla./American Heritage School of Boca/Delray) answered right back for FGCU at the 18:15 mark to knot the contest at 1-1. The game-winning goal came off the foot of Lipscomb’s Ivan Alvarado with just more than 30 minutes remaining as the Bisons are now tied with FGCU for second place in the A-Sun standings with 10 points.
With the loss, FGCU no longer controls its own destiny to host the A-Sun Championship Nov. 12-16 as the Eagles and Bisons are both just two points behind current league leader Stetson with 12 points. However, Lipscomb and FGCU both have one conference match remaining while the Hatters completed their league slate Saturday with a 1-0 double-overtime loss at Northern Kentucky.
FGCU can still earn its record fifth-straight A-Sun regular-season championship and subsequent tournament hosting responsibilities with a win at home next Saturday, Nov. 8, against USC Upstate and a Lipscomb loss or tie at Jacksonville (also next Saturday at 7 p.m.). If FGCU and Lipscomb both win their final matches and conclude the season with 13 points, the Bisons will host the tournament as a result of Saturday’s head-to-head victory. If neither team wins (or if they tie), Stetson will win the regular season with 12 points.
Lipscomb opened the scoring in the 18th minute following an Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS) foul just outside the right side of the box. On the ensuing set piece, A-Sun Preseason Co-Player of the Year Omar Djabi sent a curving effort onto the back post where Robbie Johnson rose up and headed the ball just under the crossbar to give the Bisons a 1-0 lead.
That lead was extremely short-lived, however, as Penagos answered just 21 seconds later. After having the ball played back to him, FGCU goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) sent a ball deep into the Lipscomb end. Pushing forward, left defensive back Skylar Wilks (Tampa, Fla./Newsome HS) tried to play the ball across the front of the net, but it was re-directed and found its way onto the foot of Penagos, who one-timed his fourth goal of the campaign from about six yards out to the left of Lipscomb keeper Nate Davis.
The score remained knotted into the 60th minute when Alvarado beat Ingham. After receiving a pass from Josue Chavez just inside the top of the box, Alvarado turned and despite being surrounded by FGCU defenders was able to get a shot off from about 15 yards. His effort found the inside of the right netting as the Bisons handed the Eagles just their fourth A-Sun regular-season defeat since the start of the 2010 campaign.
The Green and Blue nearly found an equalizer with a little more than three minutes remaining as Arion Sobers-Assue (Miami, Fla./DeMatha Catholic HS) had his shot swept off the goal line by a Lipscomb defender after he had beat goalkeeper Davis. On the ensuing scramble, the ball was cleared out right to Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS), who one-timed his effort from about 12 yards out with an open net over the crossbar.
FGCU now has an overall record of 31-4-3 in all A-Sun regular-season games since the start of the 2010 season. All four of those conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 114 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed 96 of them.
The match against Lipscomb served as the final road conference test of the year for the Eagles, who will now play their final road game at UCF on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. FGCU is back in action at the FGCU Soccer Complex for the regular-season finale on Saturday, Nov. 8, against USC Upstate at 7 p.m. That contest will also serve as Senior Day for the program.
GAME NOTES: FGCU now leads the all-time series with Lipscomb, 6-3 … FGCU and Lipscomb both garnered 43 points in the A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll, with the Bisons getting three first-place votes and the Eagles receiving two first-place votes … eight of the 13 players on the Preseason All-A-Sun Team hailed from either FGCU (five selections) or Lipscomb (three selections) … FGCU out-shot Lipscomb, 11-10 … Penagos is now tied with DeSousa for the team lead in goals.
FGCU has the longest home regular-season conference unbeaten streak in the nation. FGCU has not lost a home regular-season A-Sun game since 2008, a stretch of 25 in a row in which the Eagles are unbeaten (22-0-3). Included in that run is a 19-game winning streak, which was snapped in the second-to-last match last year when the Green and Blue tied Mercer, 0-0. FGCU’s last home regular-season A-Sun loss came to Jacksonville, 2-0, on Oct. 19, 2008 – an incredible stretch of 2,202 days.
For men’s soccer ticket information, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer and Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached 30 A-Sun All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just three years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to the NCAA Tournament twice – in 2011 and 2012 – and has won an unprecedented four-straight A-Sun regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets, and in 2013 he won his 100th career game.
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FGCU Athletics sponsors events throughout the year to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.