FORT MYERS, Fla. – Following a back-and-forth first half, sophomore Paulina Speckmaier came off the bench for the FGCU women’s soccer team (7-3-1) in the second half, scored two goals and assisted on a third to guide the Eagles to a 3-0 victory over the University of North Florida (3-7-2) on Sunday afternoon.
North Florida came into this one looking for its first Atlantic Sun win this season. The Ospreys lost at Stetson on Friday evening by a score of 1-0. The Eagles were looking to start 2-0 in conference play for the second consecutive season.
The first half saw both teams apply pressure with multiple scoring chances presenting themselves for each side. Tabby Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS) almost put the Eagles on the board first, forcing UNF goalkeeper Megan Dorsey to make a save in the third minute. North Florida would force Brittany Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece-Athena HS) to make a save shortly after and the back-and-forth would continue until the halftime buzzer. The Eagles would take a 6-3 shot advantage into the break.
Early in the second half it was more of the same. Both teams applied pressure but were unable to find the back of the net. Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep/University of Florida) would re-enter the game in the 63rd minute looking to give the Green and Blue a lift off the bench.
In the 71st minute, Speckmaier and Tindell broke free on a run. Tindell made a pass to Speckmaier which the Miami native controlled and fired past Dorsey to give the Eagles their first lead of the game. The tally would go on to be the game-winner.
It was just over ten minutes later when Speckmaier broke free once again. Without the aid of an assist, she moved cleanly through the defense and eased the ball past Dorsey for her second score of the game and fourth of the season.
Even after the pair of goals, the sophomore had not yet completed her stat sheet. She found Shannen Wacker (Parker Colo./Ponderosa HS) who scored her first goal of the season in the 85th minute thanks to Speckmaier’s assist, giving FGCU the three-goal lead, which they would hold on to and move to 2-0 in A-Sun play.
“It was a typical UNF battle for us” said head coach Jim Blankenship after the game. “They have a great team, it’s a phenomenal program. They beat us last year and we knew it wouldn’t be easy. In fairness it was a back-and-forth first half. Brittany Brown kept us in it. She made two quality saves to keep them off the board and eventually we found our feet and our rhythm and in the second half I thought we played really well. I felt we pressed the issue were rewarded with a couple of great goals.”
Speckmaier put up her five points in just 60 minutes off the bench. Prior to the game she has scored just two goals this season. One came in the Eagles’ 2-1 victory over Mississippi State with the second coming the next game opposite FIU. The assist on Sunday was her first in an FGCU uniform. She did not appear in any games while at the University of Florida in 2012.
“She was tremendous today” Blankenship said in reference to Speckmaier’s performance. “I thought the first goal was great and then her effort and energy to get the second one. To finish the breakaway like that kind of set the tone for the day. I think that was the one that took the pressure off because at 1-0 there was still a tremendous amount of pressure in the game and both teams were fighting.”
The Eagles will continue conference play next weekend when they travel to Northern Kentucky for a Friday evening match before moving along to Lipscomb to a Sunday afternoon matinee. The Eagles defeated both teams last season by a combined score of 8-0.
2013-14 women’s soccer season tickets are now available by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. Season tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for youth (ages 3-12). Single-game tickets can also be purchased for $6 per adult and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can receive a discounted rate of $3 per person. FGCU students and faculty/staff are admitted for free with a valid University ID.