FULLERTON, Calif. – After erasing a three-goal deficit in the second half to send the match to overtime, the FGCU women’s soccer team suffered a 4-3 setback to Cal State Fullerton Friday evening on the West Coast. With a loss in the team’s first true road contest of the year, the Eagles move to 3-1-1, while the Titans improve to 5-0 for the program’s best start in program history.
Cal State Fullerton took control early on and went into the break with a 3-0 lead but it was a tale of two halves for the Green and Blue. Second-half goals from Tabby Tindell (Ocala, Fla/Trinity Catholic High School), Paulina Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) and Meaghan Mulligan (Freehold, N.J./Colts Neck High School/Tennessee) knotted the game 3-3 at the end of regulation to send the contest to overtime. Both teams produced opportunities in the extra periods but a 107th-minute penalty kick for the Titans pushed the home team ahead in the sudden victory overtime.
“This is a heartbreaking loss,” said head coach Jim Blankenship of the team’s first defeat of the year. “I’m disappointed in the result because the team was not rewarded for such a tough performance. I’m so proud of the fight this team put up and of the way they played. This game showed us what we’re capable of and showed the true character of our team. It’s a tough lesson to learn on the road against such a good team, but I’m proud of the way the ladies handled the result.”
Cal State Fullerton took the lead early on with a sixth-minute header and maintained the advantage through the break. The Titans struck three times in the opening half before Tindell and Speckmaier sparked a second-half comeback for the Eagles. The duo produced back-to-back goals in a two-minute span to cut the score to 3-2 near before the 60th minute.
The Eagles controlled play in the second half but trailed through the majority of the action. With just two minutes to play, Mulligan laid in the equalizer to send the contest to overtime.
After being outshot 9-5 in the first half, the Eagles produced 18 total shots compared to the Titans’ 14, with both teams firing seven shots on goal. Senior Brittany Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece-Athena High School) made three saves on the night.
The Titans took hold of the momentum early on and forged ahead with a 1-0 lead in the game’s sixth minute. The home team crossed the ball from the left side where a Titan forward found the back of the net on a header.
FGCU created a pair of organized counterattacks in the minutes that followed but was unable to challenge the Titan backline.
CSUF increased the score to 2-0 in the 21st minute after back-to-back corners threatened the FGCU defense. The backline headed the cross out on the second corner but the clear was intercepted by a CSUF forward who took a one-touch shot to the far post.
With a 2-0 deficit, Tindell created two opportunities for the Green and Blue but one shot went wide and the other was stopped by the Titan keeper.
The Titans added to their advantage in the 33rd minute after another corner kick was punched out to the left side. The home team sent the ball back in to the scrum of players where a Titan midfielder volleyed a shot to the upper right corner.
Cal State Fullerton created one final shot that challenged Brown in the last seconds of the half and went into the break with a 3-0 advantage.
Speckmaier and Tindell opened the second half with a stronger offensive intensity. The pair produced three shots in the opening minutes of the half to put pressure on the CSUF backline.
In the 57th minute, Ali Rogers (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast High School) pushed through the midfield along the right sideline and fired a cross into the penalty box. Tindell got a head on the cross near the far post and found the back of the net to put the Eagles on the scoreboard.
Just two minutes later, Tindell fed freshman Camille Knudstrup (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins High School) near the right sideline 30 yards from the corner. Knudstrup perfectly placed a ball at the penalty hash mark where an unmarked Speckmaier used another header to add to the Eagles’ total. The strike beat a diving Titan keeper and cut the deficit to 3-2 with 30 minutes left to play.
The Eagles continued to challenge the Titan defense and produced another threat in the 71st minute. Kaitlin Parker (Palm Harbor, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic High School) sent a cross from the left side into the box where Nikki Hudson’s (Baltimore, Md./Roland Park Country School/Rutgers) header landed just wide of the far post.
In the 83rd minute, senior centerback Emma Blackwell (Jenks, Okla./Jenks High School) rocked a shot from 25-yards out that went high as the Eagles continued to push the Titans.
FGCU found the equalizer in the 88th minute as Rogers fed Mulligan in the box. Mulligan’s first career goal evened the match at 3-3 as the final whistle approached.
The Green and Blue carried the momentum into the first overtime period and used shots from Blackwell and Rogers in the opening minutes. Blackwell sent a shot wide in the 92nd minute and had fired a rocket at the Titan keeper in the 95th after Speckmaier beat the defense and fed Blackwell at the top of the box. Rogers’ shot was blocked by the defense.
The Titans regained composure late in the first overtime period and nearly earned the victory on a 99th-minute header that hit the left post, but Brown stifled the opportunity and held the game even after the first overtime.
The second overtime period was played mostly in the midfield, with both teams limiting their offensive production. In the 107th minute, FGCU was whistled for a foul at the top of the penalty box as CSUF neared the goal. The Titans buried the penalty kick past a diving Brown to steal the double overtime win, 4-3.
Overall, the Eagles produced 18 shots from six different players with Tindell pacing the team at six attempts and four shots on goal. Speckmaier added five shots, while Blackwell contributed four. With a goal and an assist, Tindell gains ground as FGCU’s all-time points leader at 95 points. She also moves to ninth all-time on the Atlantic Sun career goals record list with 39.
FGCU continues its West Coast swing with a Sunday night contest against San Diego State University. The Eagles and Aztecs will face off in a 10 p.m. EST kickoff in San Diego before the Green and Blue returns to the FGCU Soccer Complex for home games against Miami and FIU next weekend.