TAMPA – In an NCAA Tournament rematch from a season ago, the FGCU men’s soccer team (6-5-3) faced its former head coach for the first time as the Eagles renewed their I-75 rivalry with USF (6-5-3) Tuesday night at Corbett Stadium with 1-1 double-overtime tie.
Last year’s nation-leading scorer, Albert Ruiz, tallied the FGCU goal off a penalty kick in the 17th minute – his second goal and fifth point of the year after missing the first eight games of the season recovering from an injury.
USF got the equalizer in the 35th minute from Gonzalo Rodriguez off an assist from Adrian Billhardt. Billhardt took the corner, and Rodriguez headed his second goal of the season into the upper 90.
In the 39th minute, getting a result for FGCU became immensely more difficult as Jordan Lue (Tampa, Fla./UCF/Wharton HS) was issued a red card, and the Eagles played the final 71 minutes with 10 men.
However, while the Green and Blue bent a little, they did not break, earning a quality result against a USF team which entered the match with an RPI of 39.
“I think it says a lot about the character of our team to get this result. We’ve had a little bit of a tough stretch, but tonight I think we made a statement that we’re capable of battling for 90 or 110 minutes even down a guy,” stated FGCU head coach Jesse Cormier. “We demonstrated a high level of communication and team unity tonight, in addition to having a willingness to battle for each other which is what we’ve been trying to achieve.
“I’m proud of the way we played this evening; it’s a big step forward,” Cormier continued. “If we can build off this, with the talent that we have and the things we can do, we can be quite formidable in the final few weeks of the season and entering the postseason.”
USF – which has already played four top-20 ranked teams, and two more which received votes in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 National Poll this season – out-shot FGCU, 20-14, but the Bulls held just a slim 7-5 edge in shots on target.
Jared Brown (Aurora, Ontario/St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS) made his third start of the season in net for the Eagles, and the sophomore recorded a season-high six saves – tied for the 2nd-most in a game in his career.
The penalty kick for Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/CE L’Hospitalet/UE Cornella) occurred after Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University/Bill Crothers S.S) slipped a pass through to him in the box, and Ruiz took one touch before being pulled down by the USF keeper.
The PK came in near poetic fashion as the senior clinched FGCU’s first-ever NCAA Tournament advancement last year on the same exact pitch against Bulls with a penalty-kick finish. It was Ruiz’s 10th penalty kick finish, 32nd goal and 72nd point – extending program records in each category. Tuesday also marked Ruiz’ first start of the season.
In last year’s NCAA Tournament First Round, FGCU clipped the Bulls in penalty kicks, 3-0, following a 2-2 tie to move on to the Second Round for the first time in its four NCAA appearances.
Tuesday night also represented FGCU’s first meeting with former head coach Bob Butehorn, who is now at the helm of USF after serving in the same role with the Eagles from the program’s initial season in 2007 through the end of last year.
FGCU and USF have become fierce rivals as the contest was the 11th matchup between the two Gulf Coast sides since 2009. All-time, USF now holds a slim 4-3-4 edge in the series, but over the past seven matchups, the Eagles are 2-1-4.
FGCU returns to Southwest Florida for its final home match of the year when the Eagles host Senior Night against NJIT on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 7.
The match is of extreme importance as FGCU and NJIT are tied for 2nd place in the ASUN with 10 points off identical 3-1-1 records. With a win, the Eagles will guarantee themselves a bye into the ASUN Tournament semifinals, in addition to securing the No. 2 seed and hosting responsibilities for that matchup on Nov. 5.
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 120-94-50 (.549 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.