10 Oct Lillback’s Hat Trick Leads Eagles Over North Florida
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sophomore Louise Lillback recorded the first hat trick for the FGCU women’s soccer team in six years on Sunday as the Eagles (8-6, 5-1 ASUN) took down North Florida (8-3-2, 3-2-1 ASUN), 3-0, at Pickering Field.
Lillback (Stockholm, Sweden/Tibble Gymnasium) got the scoring started early with a goal in the second minute before adding one later in the first half and another after the break. It is the first hat trick since Tabby Tindell recorded one against Stetson in October of 2015.
“Fantastic result to bounce back against a very good team,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “It was gut-wrenching the other night, but it shows a lot of character about this team. The group is resilient and I’m incredibly proud of them”
The Eagles outshot the Ospreys, 14-10, including an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal. They also took four corner kicks compared to just two for North Florida.
After a tough loss the other night in double overtime, the Eagles could not have asked for a better start as Lillback beat her defender before firing a shot into the back of the net in just the second minute of the game.
Junior goalkeeper Katie Sullivan (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North HS/Creighton) started the play that produced the second goal for FGCU. She found freshman Malaya Melancon (Naples, Fla./First Baptist Academy), who sent it forward to Lillback, who had only the keeper to beat, which she did.
Lillback capped off her career day with her third goal in the 58th minute. Sophomore Leah Scarpelli picked up the assist as she sent a ball forward to the edge of the box. The keeper tried to come out and grab it, but Lillback beat her to the ball and chipped it over her head and into the net.
Lillback nearly got a fourth goal in the 71st minute, but her shot from a tough angle hit the post.
In goal, Sullivan made four saves to earn her sixth shutout of the season.
The Eagles will now hit the road for their final road trip of the regular season. They will battle Jacksonville, Thursday at 7 p.m. before taking on Liberty, Sunday at 1 p.m.
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COACH JIM BLANKENSHIP
A veteran of over two decades in collegiate coaching, head coach Jim Blankenship, who was named the ASUN Coach of the Year in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2019, has built FGCU women’s soccer into a yearly contender in the ASUN Conference and a rising program in the South Region in just 13 seasons. Blankenship started the program in 2007 and has since guided the Eagles to 13 double-digit win seasons, culminating with ASUN Regular Season Championships in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019. In 2011 and 2012 he also led the Eagles to back-to-back ASUN Tournament titles as they became the first team in the history of the university to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles went on to win the 2014 ASUN Tournament and hosted the first NCAA Championship event on campus. The Eagles earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance with the 2015 ASUN Tournament Championship and won their first NCAA game at USF in 2015 while finishing 24th in the nation. In 2016, the Eagles made it three-consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament with a third-straight ASUN Tournament title. A year later, the Eagles became the first ASUN women’s soccer program to make four-straight NCAA Tournaments with another tournament title in 2017. Blankenship has guided FGCU to a 182-68-27 (.706) overall record through the first 15 seasons of the program’s existence, including an 91-18-15 (.794) mark in the ASUN. Blankenship’s impressive career record of 422-139-38 (.736) over 31 seasons has come while leading FGCU, the University of Miami, Lynn University and St. Thomas University.
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FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 85 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 14+ seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just ten seasons of D-I postseason eligibility, the Eagles have had a combined 42 teams or individuals compete in NCAA championships. Eight FGCU programs have earned a top-25 national ranking in their respective sport – including women’s basketball (No. 21, 2020-21), beach volleyball (No. 20, 2021) and both men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s soccer (2018) as three of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Green and Blue posted a department-best sixth-place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top-100 showing nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and state of Florida best seven teams earn the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for their Academic Progress Rate in their sport. FGCU also collectively earned a record 3.50 GPA in the classroom in the fall 2020 semester and has outperformed the general University undergraduate population for 23 consecutive semesters. The 2019 Fall, 2020 Spring, 2020 Fall, and 2021 Spring semesters each saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a 3.0-or-higher team GPA. The Eagles also served an all-time high 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two runners-up for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.
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