MIAMI – A first-half goal from sophomore Paulina Speckmaier served as the prelude for a game-winning strike by freshman Tabby Tindell in the early stages of the second half, and the FGCU defense kept host FIU off the scoreboard from there as the women’s soccer team (3-1-1) claimed a 2-1 victory over the Panthers (1-3-0) Friday.
The Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute when Melissa Arnold (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek Regional HS) took a corner and put it onto the back post. From there, Tessa Berger (Mahurangi East, New Zealand/Epsom Girls Grammar School) headed it back to the near post for Speckmaier, who headed it into the net.
After the Panthers scored the equalizer late in the 37th minute on an FGCU miscue, Tindell struck just 2:18 into the second half to put the Green and Blue back up. Atlantic Sun Preseason Player of the Year Ally Kasun (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield HS) took control of the ball in the midfield and flicked a pass to Shannen Wacker (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa HS). The junior then earned the assist as she sent a great thru ball onto Tindell’s run, who beat the charging FIU keeper for her first collegiate game-winning tally.
“I’m very pleased with the result because it’s not easy to win on the road in this environment against a seasoned team that returns almost everyone from last year and is picked to win their division of Conference USA,” head coach Jim Blankenship said. “We made one mistake and they buried it, but I’m happy with how we responded by scoring in the first three minutes of the half, and I thought we handled the pressure well.
“I thought Tabby was tremendous and dangerous all day, and I’m glad she was rewarded with the game-winner,” Blankenship added. “But overall it was a good, gritty and gutty performance by our players and we were rewarded with the win.”
Shortly after Tindell’s go-ahead goal, FIU countered following a Shea Rhoney (Lithia, Fla./Newsome HS) shot, but Brittany Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece Athena HS) was equal to the task at the other end of the field, stopping a close-angle shot. The Panthers continued to apply pressure, and their best chance to knot the game came in the 66th minute as a shot rang off the post. But Brown and the FGCU defense kept FIU off the board the rest of the half to wrap up their second straight win.
After out-shooting FIU in the first half, 7-1, FGCU and the Panthers each attempted seven shots in the closing 45 minutes. For the game, the Eagles put eight of their 14 attempts on frame, forcing FIU keeper Paula Zuluaga into six saves.
Following a season-opening loss in the closing minutes at then-No. 9 Florida, FGCU is now unbeaten in its last four games, including a pair of 2-1 wins in back-to-back contests. During that stretch, the Eagles have out-scored their opponents, 9-2, and those nine goals have come from seven different players.
Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) and Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS) lead the diversified offensive attack as the only Eagles with multiple goals and a team-best four points, a total matched by Berger, who has a goal and two assists. On the defensive side of the pitch, Brown continues her stellar play in net, while Berger and Emma Blackwell (Jenks, Okla./Jenks HS) remain firm anchors in the backline.
Next up for FGCU is a visit to Honolulu to compete in the University of Hawaii Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Classic next weekend. The Eagles will play Portland State on Friday before wrapping up the weekend with a contest against Idaho State on Sunday. The Green and Blue return to action at the FGCU Soccer Complex Friday, Sept. 20, opposite Memphis at 7 p.m.
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.