28 Sep Women’s Soccer Faces Road Tests at JSU, North Alabama
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s soccer team heads to Alabama for two cross-divisional ASUN games this week as they look to remain undefeated in conference play. The Eagles will open the week with Jacksonville State on Thursday at 8 p.m., before taking on North Alabama, Sunday at 12 p.m.
After a tough non-conference slate, the Eagles got off to a strong start in the ASUN as they took down Eastern Kentucky and Bellarmine, both by a score of 2-0, at Pickering Field last week. Louise Lillback (Stockholm, Sweden/Tibble Gymnasium) scored three goals, including two in the win over Bellarmine while junior Alyssa Abbondandolo (Cape Coral, Fla./Oasis HS) found the back of the net for the first time this season as well.
Junior Katie Sullivan (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North HS/Creighton) picked up her third and fourth shutouts of the season as she made seven saves during the week. Her four shutouts is third-most in the ASUN and 32nd in the nation.
Around the ASUN, four teams, including FGCU, picked up two wins to open ASUN play. In the ASUN East Division, Liberty defeated both JSU and North Alabama while Stetson beat the same two teams FGCU defeated, Bellarmine and Eastern Kentucky. Central Arkansas is the only team from the west that is still undefeated in conferene play as it took down Jacksonville and North Florida.
Jacksonville State went 1-1 last week, picking up a 1-0 win at Kennesaw State, its first win in the ASUN since rejoining the conference after being in the OVC for the last 18 years.
Cynthia Bagozzi and Nyeemah Beckles each have three goals this season for the Gamecocks while Alicia Pallister leads the team with three assists. Morgan Lerch has started every game in goal for JSU and has made 45 saves.
North Alabama dropped both its matches in the ASUN’s opening week, falling to Kennesaw State and Liberty. Overall, they sit at 1-8-2 with the lone win coming against Jackson State.
Alice Bussey has two goals to lead the team while Kira Schuster paces the Lions with two assists. Peyton Yates has started all but one game between the pipes and leads the ASUN with 56 saves.
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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 179-67-27 (.703) overall record through the first 15 seasons of the program’s existence, including an 88-17-15 (.796) mark in the ASUN. Blankenship’s impressive career record of 419-138-38 (.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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