MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The No. 3 seed University of Denver women’s soccer team took an early lead, but fell to No. 2 seed Florida International 3-1 on Thursday evening in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Semifinals at the Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium on the campus of Middle Tennessee.
“We were pretty excited to get the first goal,” Jeff Hooker said. “We went to the locker room 1-1, but felt really good about the way that we were playing, and what we were going to accomplish in the second half.”
The Pioneers (16-5-0) got on the board in the 12th minute, playing a dangerous ball into the six yard box. As the Golden Panther (13-6-2) defense tracked back to clear it, the ball rolled off the wrong side of a FIU head and into the back of the net.
FIU quickly responded in the 18th minute as the Pioneers got caught on a counter attack, and it was freshman forward Ashleigh Shim that got in behind the Pioneers defense and beat junior goal keeper Lara Campbell (Anchorage, Alaska).
Denver controlled play for most of the first half, outshooting FIU 11-1 in the opening 45 minutes, but the score was tied at one heading into the intermission.
Freshman midfielder Johanna Volz, who delivered the match’s only goal in the season’s previous matchup in Miami, put FIU up 2-1 in the 62nd minute. Volz got a header on target and Campbell made a diving save, but the freshman knocked home the rebound to give the Golden Panthers the lead.
FIU made it 3-1 in the 71st minute, as sophomore midfielder Nicole DiPerna converted a spot kick after DU committed a handball in the box.
Denver produced a few quality chances in the second half, but was unable to capitalize on any of those to narrow the margin in the waning minutes of the match.
Despite losing the match, DU still dominated play, outshooting the Golden Panthers 24-5 and holding a 13-0 advantage in corners.
FIU will face the winner of the No. 2 seed North Texas and the No. 4 seed Western Kentucky in Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship at 12 p.m. MT.