FORT MYERS, Fla. - A pair of goals in the final two minutes of each half lifted the FGCU women’s soccer team (6-3-1) past Jacksonville University (5-5-0) on Friday evening under the lights of the FGCU Soccer Complex. The Eagles lone senior, Kayley Clay, would provide the dramatic game-winner with just 1:29 left on the clock.
The match got underway under the setting sun and did not see either team gain any kind of advantage for much of the early portion of the opening frame. In the 26th minute the Eagles finally moved the ball out of the neutral zone and found themselves in a brilliant scoring chance. Tabby Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS) put a shot in the chest of the Jacksonville keeper and the rebound came bounding back towards the feet of FGCU players but offside would be called.
The Dolphins did not waste their stroke of good fortune as they took the ball straight down the field and deep into FGCU territory. Sarah Moghadas made a clean pass through the middle to the feet of a wide open Marie Weckhurst who settled the ball, turned and fired a shot past FGCU goalkeeper Brittany Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece Athena HS) to give JU the first lead of the game.
The Green and Blue decided to save their best chance for the closing moments of the first half. Melissa Arnold (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek Regional HS) fed a corner kick to the center of goal mouth and found the head of freshman defender Tessa Berger (Mahurangi East, New Zealand/Epsom Girls Grammar School) who re-directed the service into the back of the net with just 28 seconds left on the clock.
“The first goal really helped us through halftime” head coach Jim Blankenship would state after the game. “You could see it really lifted us a little bit. We had played well and we had given up one shot and it wound up being a goal and that’s soccer. Our kids were a little bit down and I felt like that goal, a phenomenal goal by Tessa, put us back in the match.”
The second half saw the Eagles put plenty of pressure on the Jacksonville defense without much success. Several clean chances generated by Tindell and Shannen Wacker (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa HS) would go astray or find the waiting hands of Dolphin goalkeeper Sarah Sierra.
Sophomore Paulina Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep/University of Florida) entered the game in the 80th minute and provided an instant boost of energy. She herself generated a few chances but was unable to convert. Arnold took a go at goal trying to get FGCU the go-ahead tally but once again Sierra, who made nine saves in this one, was there waiting.
It wasn’t until FGCU’s 16th and final shot of the game would a ball finally get the best of Sierra. Kayley Clay (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Lynn University) took a pass from Sarah Lowicki (Ontario, Canada/Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School) and let loose a shot from 30 yards beyond the top left side of the box that sailed past the diving hands of Sierra and into the top left side of the net for the go-ahead and game-winning goal.
The countdown began there and time ran out quickly on the Dolphins who drop their first ever result to the Eagles in the regular season. FGCU was previously 0-2-4 opposite JU in the regular season. The Green and Blue defeated Jacksonville for the first time in the 2013 Atlantic Sun tournament.
“This conference is always tough” Blakenship said after the game. “Anytime you can secure three points it’s phenomenal. It’s a great start to our conference play, to our season and our program. We’re really excited about it. These are how games are going to be.”
FGCU outshot its opponent on Friday night 16-7. Brown only needed to make one save all night. The Eagles continued their sharing ways as 11 different players in blue took a shot.
The Eagles will now focus their attention on the University of North Florida who will come to the FGCU Soccer Complex on Sunday (Sept. 29) for a 1 p.m. matinee under the sun. With a win FGCU will start 2-0 in conference play for a second consecutive season. North Florida did however get the best of the Green and Blue on the road last season. The Ospreys came away with a 2-0 victory in Jacksonville last October.
2013-14 women’s soccer season tickets are now available by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. Season tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for youth (ages 3-12). Single-game tickets can also be purchased for $6 per adult and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can receive a discounted rate of $3 per person. FGCU students and faculty/staff are admitted for free with a valid University ID.