MELBOURNE, Fla. (Men’s Soccer) – Three minutes after No. 10 Palm Beach Atlantic tied the game, junior defenseman Steven Fellows headed home the game-winning goal in the 74th minute to give Florida Tech a 2-1 victory on Tuesday at Rick Stottler Field.
“We knew we would have a good game with Palm Beach [Atlantic]. They always work hard for 90 minutes no matter what the situation is,” head coach Robin Chan said. “We are obviously very happy with the results. The energy was right for us today, and it was good to get back on track.”
Palm Beach Atlantic (9-2) trailed Florida Tech (6-2-3) for 69 minutes of the match. The Panthers scored just 1:03 into the contest when Ricky Menendez found Drake Hillman up the middle with a through pass. Hillman collected the ball and struck it from 10 yards out to beat the Sailfish goalkeeper left side for a 1-0 lead.
FIT shutdown the Sailfish attack in the first half, only allowing one shot in the side. That shot came in the 22nd minute of play, when FIT goalkeeper Brentton Muhammad (5-2-2) made a diving save to keep Palm Beach Atlantic off the board. The Panthers outshot the Sailfish 7-1 in the first half.
Eight minutes into the second half, Muhammad made two brilliant saves in a span of 20 seconds. Muhammad blocked the first shot straight on from the left side, causing a rebound. The ball then found Palm Beach Atlantic’s Cameron Roberts. From 20 yards out, Roberts drilled a shot that hooked toward the upper left corner of the goal. Jumping up and reaching, Muhammad punched the ball over the goal frame. Muhammad finished the game with four saves.
In the 56th minute, Roberts of Palm Beach Atlantic was issued a straight red card for a flying elbow in the box, giving the Panthers a man advantage the rest of the way.
The Sailfish, however, began to pick up their offensive attack late into the game, firing six of their seven shots in the second half.
In the 71st minute, Palm Beach Atlantic found its equalizer. Coming up from his defensive position, Chris Karafilov rifled a shot from 30 yards out, down the left side, to beat a sprawling Muhammad inside the far post to knot the game at 1-1.
The Panthers wasted no time to respond.
Three minutes later, FIT earned a free kick 30 yards out from the goal. Sophomore Yannis Pele sent in a low arching ball that curled around the outside of the box and made its way towards the goal. As the ball approached the group a players in front of the goal, an opening was created for Fellows to make his move. The defender leapt off the ground and swung his head towards the goal. Fellows hit the ball with the left side of his forehead and into the goal to give FIT the lead back at 2-1.
“It was a great free kick from Yannis [Pele],” Fellows said. “He whipped it in and I headed it across the goal into the bottom corner.”
The Panthers held on to the lead as the final minutes ticked off the clock. FIT improved its non-conference record to 4-0-1-- 4-0-0 against non-conference opponents. The tie came against conference foe Tampa on Sept. 12 in a non-conference match.
“The boys have been in close games like this before,” Chan said of his team’s quick response. “They kept their concentration high, especially on set pieces. They were able to come through on one today.”
The Panthers will welcome a second straight nationally ranked team to Rick Stottler Field on Saturday when No. 3 Lynn travels Melbourne.
“We expect a tough game, big battles and high intensity,” Fellows said of the Panthers’ next contest with Lynn.
“[Lynn] is a quality team,” Chan said. “It is going to be a challenging game for us, but we always look forward to playing them. We know they are a good team, so it is an easy game to get motivated for. It is three points on the table”
FIT will stay home for a pivotal conference match with No. 3 Lynn on Saturday, Oct. 13. The Panthers and Fighting Knights will square off at 3:30 p.m.