12 Nov University of West Florida womens soccer falls in GSC semifinals
The University of West Florida women’s soccer team came up just a few missed chances short of getting to the Gulf South Conference championship.
On Thursday night from Ashton Brosnaham Park, UWF fell 1-0 at the hands of the nationally-ranked No. 2 Lee University Flames.
“If we had a little bit more quality in front of the goal, it could have been a different day,” Argos head coach Joe Bartlinski said. “But they are well-coached, they are second place in the country. If this is what a second-place team does, I hope it gives our players confidence going forward into the national tournament.”
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The crowd had to wait until late in the game for its first and only goal, with each chance near the net leading everyone in the stands to get on their feet.
However, that long-anticipated goal wasn’t in the majority’s favor. In the 74th minute, Lee’s junior defender Kate Dirkse passed a rainbow from near midfield that senior forward Lauren Weimer narrowly headed in for the deciding score.
Both before and after that goal, though, UWF had its own chances on getting on the scoreboard.
In the 29th minute, junior forward Destiny Hammac crossed a ball over to junior Brianna Pope right in front of the goal, but Pope had a hard time locating the ball in the cluster of players.
Later, in the 37th minute, junior defender Destiny Hird had a shot on goal that just grazed the top crossbar, a matter of inches from hitting the back of the net instead.
In the second half, the Argos were granted two late chances to tie the game, but came up empty-handed. At the 87:10 mark, a ball snuck through a group of Lee defenders to freshmen midfielder Ahnalie Layman’s surprise, and she misfired.
Then at 88:07, UWF had a free kick down close to the Lee goal. They tried some trickery, tapping the ball over to their senior midfielder Blair Cowan, and her shot was money. Except Flames’ senior goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns was there for the save, one of her 11 on the night.
The loss is tough to swallow for the Argos as they actually outshot the Flames 16-7, a team that has outshot its opponents 275-107 on the season. They were so close on so many different occasions, but couldn’t pull off the upset.
However, it was just a learning moment for a team full of first-year Argos. Because of the 2020 season’s cancellation and the amount of players that the team saw graduate, their roster basically started anew.
“Only five players of ours have ever played a UWF game prior to this year,” Bartlinski said. “They have a bunch (of returners). They’ve been together for so long. They just have that maturity.”
The value of understanding one another on the field cannot be understated. Sometimes, it requires years of playing with one another. But odds are, Bartlinski will have them ready for a playoff run long before that.
He holds a 316-55-21 record (.806) in 19 seasons at UWF, the sixth-best winning percentage of all-time at all NCAA levels and second-best among all Division II coaches.
“The tradition that we have here has been special,” Argos head coach Joe Bartlinski said. “Players coming in want to be part of that, but they don’t understand how much it takes to battle in all these kinds of games. After games like today, they understand.”
They now await Monday’s NCAA selection show to see where they’ll be placed in this year’s national tournament. Because of this game, Bartlinski thinks the Argos will be better prepared for that moment.
“Every game we play like this, my youngsters mature,” he said. “So after today, I think we learned a lesson. We can compete, outshoot 2:1 the No. 2 team in the country, we just need to be a little bit more mature.”
Lucas Semb can be reached at Lsemb@pensacol.gannett.com or 850-281-7414. Follow him on Twitter at @Lucas_Semb for stories and various Pensacola area score updates.
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