FORT MYERS, Fla. – After sophomore Kaitlin Parker scored the equalizing goal late in the first half, classmate Paulina Speckmaier’s 86th-minute goal in the second half broke the tie game and gave the FGCU women’s soccer team (2-1-1) a 2-1 victory over visiting Mississippi State (2-2) Sunday afternoon in the final contest of the 2013 Embassy Suites Classic.
The winning tally started on the left wing when Shannen Wacker (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa HS) sent a ball squarely onto the foot of Tessa Berger (Mahurangi East, New Zealand/Epsom Girls Grammar School). Berger then flicked the ball behind her into a little bit of space at the top of the box for Speckmaier. From there, the midfielder sent a shot through traffic past the left side of Mississippi State goalkeeper CJ Winship for her first career game-winning goal.
“I’m excited to win our tournament in the fashion that we did. It’s a great result and an unbelievable goal by Paulina,” head coach Jim Blankenship said. “I’m pleased with the effort. I felt like all weekend our team was relentless and really went after it. We put a ton of pressure on and ran into two really good goalkeepers.”
Mississippi State struck first with a goal in the 12th minute as the Bulldogs’ leading scoring, Elisabeth Sullivan, beat FGCU’s final defender following a good thru-ball by Annebel ten Broeke. Sullivan, who now has five goals on the year already, slid her shut under the effort of FGCU keeper Brittany Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece Athena HS).
Following the early tally by Mississippi State, the Green and Blue tilted the pitch in their favor, firing six consecutive shots without the Bulldogs attempting one. The best opportunity came in the 22nd minute when Ally Kasun (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield HS) crossed a ball across the goal face to Julia Roddar (Falun, Sweden/University of Wisconsin), but her shot was denied by a great leaping effort from Winship.
The Eagles finally broke through in the half’s final minute. Kaila Browe – who had just entered the game four minutes earlier – won a 50-50 ball off an MSU goal kick and fed a ball behind the Bulldogs’ backline onto the run of Parker. Parker only had the keeper to beat, but her first shot was stopped. However, the rebound careened right back to her and the Palm Beach Harbor, Fla., native deposited it into the back of the net for her first goal of the season.
The Green and Blue controlled the opening 45 minutes, attempting 15 shots to Mississippi State’s four and forcing Winship into four saves. Brown made two of her own stops, while FGCU also had five first-half corners to the Bulldogs’ one.
Brown opened the second half with a crucial save to her left six minutes in off a ten Broeke shot in which she had a clear view of the net. A few minutes later, FGCU had its best chance of the stanza to score (until Speckmaier’s tally) when Berger had a penalty kick, but Winship continued her stellar day in net by making the stop.
Sullivan nearly put the Bulldogs ahead with her second goal of the afternoon in the 75th minute as she corralled in a loose ball near the top of the 18 and fired a shot off the crossbar. The SEC member had another good opportunity for the potential winning tally in the 80th minute off a set piece at the top of the box, but Brown made the save.
“I think ultimately you look back and say ‘hey you’ve got to finish, it’ll take a little bit of pressure off,’ but I like the fact that our kids are in tough games that are preparing us for conference play by having to battle all the way through,” Blankenship added. “Today is a great example of that as we had to find a way to win, and we did that with a phenomenal goal.”
Kasun was named the MVP of the Embassy Suites Classic, and was one of four Eagles represented on the team listed below). She was joined by Speckmaier, Emma Blackwell (Jenks, Okla./Jenks HS) and Tabby Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS). Kasun and Blackwell played all 200 minutes on the weekend, while Kasun controlled the middle of the pitch and Blackwell the backline. Tindell proved herself as an offensive threat, creating several quality chances over the course of the two games.
FGCU returns to action on Friday, Sept. 6, in Miami at 5 p.m. against FIU. Following its tilt with the Panthers, the Eagles head to Honolulu for the University of Hawaii Tournament Sept. 13-15.
GAME NOTES: Winship finished with seven saves on the day, while Brown stopped six shots … the Eagles attempted 25 shots to the Bulldogs’ 10, putting nine of those on frame … FGCU had five corners in each half to finish with a 10-5 edge for the game … three yellow cards were issued, two to Mississippi State and one to FGCU.
Embassy Suites Classic All-Tournament Team
MVP: Ally Kasun, FGCU
Paulina Speckmaier, FGCU
Emma Blackwell, FGCU
Tabby Tindell, FGCU
CJ Winship, Mississippi State
Elisabeth Sullivan, Mississippi State
Annebel ten Broeke, Mississippi State
Rachel Locke, Davidson
Becca Fisher, Davidson
Claire Emslie, FAU
Yazmin Ongtengco, FAU
FGCU went 1-0-1 on the weekend, including a 0-0 double-overtime tie against Davidson Friday night. Davidson (0-0-2) played FAU to a 0-0 tie in the opening game Sunday, while Mississippi State (1-1-0) defeated FAU (0-1-1) on Friday, 3-1.
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.