FORT MYERS, Fla. – On a day the FGCU women’s soccer team (10-3-2, 5-0-1 Atlantic Sun) honored its graduating seniors Kayley Clay and Casey Towne, the offense generated a performance the pair would never forget by scoring seven goals to upend USC Upstate (3-8-3, 0-4-1 A-Sun) on Sunday afternoon.
Towne (Royal Palm Beach, Fla./Lander Univ.), having never appeared in a game for the Eagles due to a career-ending knee injury, provided the emotional moment of the afternoon in the 88th minute when head coach Jim Blankenship substituted Towne into the game. The Royal Palm Beach native came onto the field to a standing ovation and promptly assisted Kaila Browe’s (Kendall, N.Y./Kendall Central HS) goal, the seventh of the game for FGCU and the first of Browe’s career.
Tabby Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS) scored the first of her two girls on the day in the 11th minute on an assist from Clay (Cape Coral, Fla./Bishop Verot HS/Lynn University) before giving way to Shannen Wacker (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa HS) who would net the next two scores for the Eagles. Ashley Parks (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette HS) scored her first goal of the season in the 37th minute to complete the scoring for the Green and Blue in the first half. Clay got in on the action in the 68th minute with her third score of the season. By the end of the contest the Eagles had attempted 30 shots against Upstate’s one forcing Spartans goalkeeper Sarah Plantz to make 15 saves.
“You hope for these opportunities,” Blankenship surmised. “It’s an important day for our program and for Kayley and Casey for everything they’ve done for the team, the school and for us as a staff. It’s awesome for them to be able to finish that way. Those guys mean so much to us so for them to finish it on a positive note is what you always hope for.”
The pace of play was dictated by FGCU right away as it attempted two shots before the six-minute mark. Following Tindell’s goal in the 11th minute, the Eagles went 12 minutes without scoring but managed to fire three shots. Wacker, who subbed into the game in the 19th minute, received a pass from Paulina Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep/University of Florida) and buried her first score of the game in the 23rd minute, giving FGCU a 2-0 lead. Wacker’s second tally would come less than four minutes later when Shea Rhoney (Lithia, Fla./Newsome HS) put a centering pass on the Parker, Colo. native’s foot that she finished into the right side of the net. Both Wacker and Tindell would have multiple opportunities to pick up the hat trick in this one but would not be able to complete the task.
Ally Kasun (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield HS) would assist Parks’ goal in the 37th minute. Kasun attacked the middle of the field and found a streaking Parks who upon receiving the pass found herself in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. The freshman tapped the ball past the charging net-minder for her first score of her career to put the Eagles ahead 4-0 heading into halftime. By the midway point the Green and Blue had a commanding 14-0 advantage in the shot column and a 4-0 lead in corner kicks.
Most of play remained in the Upstate half of the field in the second frame. In the 68th minute, FGCU goalkeeper Brittany Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece Athena HS) was given the rest of the afternoon off in favor of backup Emily Dolan (Wilmington Del./Charter School of Wilmington) who was making her second appearance of the season, the first came in Hawai’i opposite Idaho State during the Eagles’ 5-1 victory.
Just moments after the keeper change, Clay would score her goal giving her three points on senior day, a season-high. The Cape Coral native attacked through the middle unassisted and beat the keeper to the right, giving FGCU a 5-0 lead.
Tindell scored her second goal of the day with help from Kasun and Yazmin Velez (Venice, Fla./Venice HS) in the 75th minute. The Eagles moved the ball with ease up the left sideline, Velez made a one-touch pass to Tindell who finished the score in the lower right corner of the goal.
With FGCU leading 28-0 in the shot column, the Spartans were finally able to record a shot in the 80th minute. The attempt would soar high and wide, ensuring that neither FGCU goalkeeper would need to make a save in the game for just the second time this season. The previous time came opposite Portland State in a 1-0 victory on Sept. 13 in Hawai’i.
Following Towne’s entry into the game in the 88th minute it was obvious her teammates were making an effort to find her a way into the stat sheet. Towne would initiate the play that did just that. The senior laid the ball off to Kaitlin Parker (Palm Harbor, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic HS), making just the second start of her career on Sunday, who then found Browe in the six-yard box who finished the chance to complete the scoring and secure a spot for the Eagles’ emotional leader in the box score.
Both the seven goals and the eight assists are season-highs for the Green and Blue. The last time the Eagles scored that many goals or handed out that many helpers was on Aug. 17, 2012 against Lynn University. Ali Rogers (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS) scored a pair of goals that day and logged 23 minutes of action on Sunday. The 22 total points are also a season high and good for fourth-most in single game in program history.
With 30 shots on Sunday afternoon the Eagles have now tallied 25 shots or more in four-consecutive contests for the first time in program history. If the season were to end today FGCU would establish program records in Points Per Game (6.87), Shots Per Game (18.80), Shots On Goal Per Game (8.93), Goals Per Game (2.27) and Assists Per Game (2.33). The team’s 282 shots are only 17-shy of the single-season program record of 290 set in 2011 while the 34 goals that have come from those attempts are only six behind the program record of 40 set in 2007. With three games remaining in the regular season the Eagles also have the opportunity to challenge the single-season points record of 120 set in 2011. The 2013 Eagles are sitting at 103.
The Eagles are now 20-0-1 at home in conference play since the beginning of the 2010 season and currently rest atop the A-Sun standings. Should the Eagles go on to claim another A-Sun Regular Season Championship the team will host the 2013 A-Sun Women’s Soccer Championship at the FGCU Soccer Complex where the Green and Blue have claimed each of the last two conference tournament titles.
The Eagles will look to continue their strong play next weekend when they travel to Mercer for a Friday evening (Oct. 18) test. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m. FGCU has defeated Mercer in the A-Sun championship game in each of the last two seasons. The Bears currently sit in second place in the A-Sun behind the Eagles. FGCU will then travel to Kennesaw State for a Sunday afternoon (Oct. 20) matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. The regular season will conclude the following Saturday (Oct. 26) at Stetson.