MELBOURNE, Fla. (Men’s Soccer) – Sophomore Antoine Aupiais has shown up big for Florida Tech down the final stretch. For the second-straight game, Aupiais contributed a goal and an assist, including the game winner on Saturday to give the Panthers a 2-1 victory over Barry and a spot in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament.
“[The Sunshine State Conference] is a tough conference, so we are fortunate to make the tournament,” head coach Robin Chan said of clinching a fourth-straight berth to the SSC Tournament. “The boys have worked hard this season and deserve this opportunity.”
Barry (4-9-1, 1-6-1 SSC) opened the game with thoughts of spoiling Florida Tech’s (8-3-3, 3-3-2 SSC) post season chances. The Buccaneers found the game’s first goal just 7:20 into the first session to take an early 1-0 lead. A turnover just outside the box gave Patrick Drmola the opportunity to put Barry ahead.
Eight minutes later the Panthers tied the game at 1-1.
Sophomore Yannis Pele sent a long pass toward the 18-yard box. The ball found Aupiais, who chested the ball down to the ground and over to a wide open Ricky Menendez to his left. Menendez, without hesitation, ripped a shot low to the left side to beat the keeper for the equalizer.
The Buccaneers continued to battle, outshooting the Panthers 8-3 in the first half.
FIT’s freshman goalkeeper Mitch Thorn, who made his second-straight start in goal, kept the Panthers in the game. Thorn made three saves in the first half, including a diving save with 33 seconds left in the half.
The second session began with four consecutive shots by Barry, and another diving save by Thorn. But it was the Panthers who struck next.
In the 62nd minute, Robbie Russell made one of his patented throw-ins 20 yards from the endline on the near side. Russell heaved the ball all the way into the box. For the second time in the match, the ball found Aupiais. Aupiais chested the ball to the ground as he did in the Panthers’ first goal. He then struck the ball off one bounce and into the goal to give FIT its first lead of the game at 2-1.
“It was a great throw by Robbie,” Aupiais said of Russell’s throw-in. “It came to me, I controlled it and made a shot.”
Aupiais has now scored a goal and an assist in two-straight games. He is now tied for a team-leading five goals.
“[Antoine] is a very talented player and a game breaker,” Chan said. “He has shown this in games that matter this season, and has a bright future ahead of him.”
Barry threatened to tie the game in the 71st minute.
With FIT’s keeper out of position, freshman defender Will Henderson made a save just in front of the goal line. Freshman center back Steven Fellows then blocked an immediate second shot off the rebound before the ball was cleared.
The Panthers were able to fend off the Buccaneers in the final 15 minutes, holding on to the 2-1 lead for their eighth win of the season and a spot in their fourth-straight SSC Tournament.
FIT will host Nova Southeastern on Wednesday, Oct. 24. It will be the Panthers’ Senior Day and final home game of the regular season. The FIT seniors will be recognized for the contributions to the program. The game is slated for 3:30 p.m.