08 Oct Women’s Soccer Suffers Tough Loss to Kennesaw State
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s soccer team (7-6, 4-1 ASUN) was just under two minutes away from walking away from Pickering Field with a victory over Kennesaw State (6-6, 3-2 ASUN), Thursday evening, but a late goal by the Owls tied it before KSU snatched a 2-1 victory in double overtime.
“Tough loss, to be so close, but it’s a valuable lesson,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “Credit to Kennesaw State, they battled back into it, were scrappy and found a way. You got to move forward and learn from this.”
Both teams took 17 shots in the game while FGCU had an 8-6 shots-on-goal advantage. Kennesaw State took eight corner kicks compared to four for the Eagles.
Louise Lillback (Stockholm, Sweden/Tibble Gymnasium) gave the Eagles the lead in the 43rd minute when she tapped the ball in the net off a corner kick. The goal was her seventh of the season and sixth in just five ASUN games.
FGCU nearly doubled its lead in the 71st minute when freshmen Ashley Labbe (Lake Worth, Fla./Suncoast HS) and Malaya Melancon (Naples, Fla./First Baptist Academy) took consecutive shots in the box, but both shots were turned away by the keeper before a foul was called on the Eagles to end the threat.
A 30-minute lightning delay shortly followed, but when the two teams came back on the field, Kennesaw State went on the attack. It looked like the Eagles might survive, but in the 89th minute, a defensive miscue gave an opening to the Owls and Kendall Higgs took advantage with a goal, tying the game.
After a scoreless first-overtime period, Kennesaw State controlled most of the second overtime. Junior Katie Sullivan (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North HS/Creighton) made a great save in the 108th minute as she punched a hard shot over the crossbar. However, on the ensuing corner kick, Ebony Clarke got off a clean header and found the back of the net for the Owls.
FGCU will return to action on Sunday afternoon against North Florida. Kickoff from Pickering Field is set for 2 p.m.
For complete coverage of FGCU women’s soccer, follow the Eagles on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @FGCU_WSoccer and online at www.FGCUAthletics.com. You can also sign up to have news on FGCU women’s soccer or other programs delivered directly to your inbox by visiting www.fgcuathletics.com/email.
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 181-68-27 (.703) overall record through the first 15 seasons of the program’s existence, including an 90-18-15 (.796) mark in the ASUN. Blankenship’s impressive career record of 421-139-38 (.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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