FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU men’s soccer team (8-6-3) had its season come to an end on Sunday afternoon in the ASUN Championship semifinals as the 2nd-seeded Eagles fell at home, 2-1, to 6th-seeded Lipscomb (10-7-2).
Dennis Zapata scored FGCU’s lone goal off assists from Shak Adams and Chris Clement in the 29th minute to tie the game at 1-1, but the Bisons advanced to the ASUN Championship Final thanks to a header from Logan Paynter in the 71st minute.
Lipscomb moves on to face 5th-seeded Jacksonville (6-9-1) on Saturday on the Dolphins’ home pitch as the two lowest-seeded teams are the final two teams remaining in the ASUN Tournament. FGCU, meanwhile, wrapped up its ninth-straight winning season after sub-.500 years in the program’s first two campaigns in 2007 and 2008.
Just moments after the opening kick, Lipscomb took a 1-0 lead as Ivan Sakou’s low shot from about 20 yards out slipped through the hands and went between the legs of starting FGCU goalkeeper Jared Brown, who was otherwise positioned perfectly on his goal line. Paynter was credited with the assist as the Bisons held the advantage after only 18 seconds of action.
Neither team had a great chance over the next 25 minutes or so until a beautiful setup by Clement (Mallorca, Spain/Lycee Francais de Palma) and Adams (Antioch, Tenn./Cane Ridge HS) just before the half-hour mark. As he has done often this year, ASUN All-Freshman Team member Clement pressed forward from his back-right position and played a ball up the right flank to ASUN First Team selection Adams. The sophomore slid a pass across the box to Zapata (Orlando, Fla./University HS), and the ASUN Second Team pick one-timed an effort from about 10 yards back across the goal for his fifth strike of the campaign.
The Eagles nearly took the lead in the 36th minute when defender Preston Kilwien (San Francisco, Calif./College Park HS) laced a shot from about 30 yards with his strong left foot, but the ASUN Second Team member’s effort that was targeted for the inside right post was stopped by the diving effort of Lipscomb keeper Christopher Zappia. The rebound careened to Fernando Ramirez (Caracas, Venezuela/Cypress Bay HS), who sent a shot of his own from a tight angle just past the outside of the left post.
The two teams hit halftime with the momentum shifted toward the Eagles. After Lipscomb held the better of the play to open the game, FGCU attempted the final six shots of the opening stanza, holding a 7-4 edge in that category after 45 minutes.
The Eagles made in non-injury change in net just five minutes into the 2nd half when ASUN All-Freshman Team selection Connor Gavigan (Aurora, Colo./Creighton/Grandview HS) entered for Brown (Aurora, Ontario/St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS).
Neither Gavigan nor Brown made a save as both of Lipscomb’s shots on target found the back of the net. That second attempt was the game-winner off the head of Paynter. Austin Eager curved a cross to the far post, where Paynter was un-covered and easily delivered the clinching goal with less than 20 minutes remaining.
The two sides were evenly matched throughout the afternoon as Lipscomb – which advanced to the semifinals via penalty kicks, 3-0, after tying No. 3 NJIT on Friday night, 3-3 – finished with an 11-10 shot advantage, but FGCU held a 4-2 edge in terms of shots on net. The Eagles attempted five corners compared with the Bisons’ four.
“I thought Lipscomb came in with some momentum from Friday and they just had more; they gave more to the game,” surmised FGCU head coach Jesse Cormier. “We just didn’t have the preparation that we needed, and that’s on the coaches as well. We didn’t have the attitude or energy we needed to be successful. When you’re in the postseason, it’s all about the teams that are willing to move mountains – to put it in those terms – and they had more of that than we did.”
FGCU was looking for its fifth ASUN Championship title in seven years of eligibility. It marked the second-straight year that FGCU and Lipscomb met at the FGCU Soccer Complex in an ASUN semifinal. Last season, the Green and Blue scored a double-overtime winner to take down the Bisons, 3-2.
Each time the Green and Blue have lost in the ASUN Tournament, it has come in the semifinals – 2013 and 2015 both at home as the No. 1 seed. Despite the setback, FGCU is still 8-3-0 in 11 all-time ASUN Tournament matches. The eight victories in only seven seasons are more than any other current team in the league with the exception of Jacksonville (nine) and Stetson (10), but those two schools have been playing in the ASUN Tournament since 1997 and 1985, respectively.
The match also brought to an end of the collegiate careers of eight FGCU seniors. Those eight players have been responsible over their careers for a pair of ASUN regular-season titles, two ASUN Tournament championships and a program-record 14 victories last year as the Green and Blue reached the NCAA Tournament Second Round for the first time.
“I hate to see them go out like this; you want to see them go out on top,” stated Cormier of his graduating class. “But at the end of the day, they’ve been the catalysts in creating, historically, the greatest team in program history. They should be very proud of what they’ve achieved here. As a program we really honor their efforts, loyalty and the indelible mark they’ve left.
“The returning guys and coaching staff really need to look at establishing an ever higher standard,” added Cormier. “We’re all responsible for taking this program to another level. I think we can compete on a national level, and compete for a national championship. We need to change the mindset and really have that thought when we go about our business.”
IRMA RELIEF DONATIONS
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, many individuals and families throughout Southwest Florida are still in desperate need of assistance. To aid in those relief efforts, FGCU Athletics will be collecting donations at all Eagle home games for the immediate future. Donation items most needed include: non-perishable food, clothing, household items and first-aid supplies. Additionally, those unable to attend upcoming home games can drop off donations in canisters located in the Alico Arena lobby. All donations will be given to those hardest hit in Lee and Collier counties.
For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the FGCU men’s soccer program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer, Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer, Facebook /FGCUMSoccer and YouTube /FGCUAthletics.
HEAD COACH JESSE CORMIER
Jesse Cormier was hired in January 2017 to become just the 2nd head coach in program history. The head coach at Vermont for the previous 13 seasons, Cormier won 14 games with the Catamounts in 2016 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. During his time with Vermont, Cormier guided the program to the America East Tournament in 12 of 13 seasons, making five title game appearances, winning two tournament crowns, claiming a regular-season championship and advancing to three NCAA tournaments, including a pair of Second Round appearances. Cormier has a 122-95-50 (.551 winning percentage) overall record as a head coach.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
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.