05 Oct Women’s Soccer Welcomes Kennesaw State, UNF to Pickering Field
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s soccer team looks to stay perfect in the ASUN as it hosts Kennesaw State and North Florida at Pickering Field this week. While the Eagles have played four ASUN contests so far this season, they have all been cross-divisional games. This week begins divisional play, meaning points will be rewarded in the standings.
The Eagles picked up two wins on the road last week, getting multiple goal performances from two different players. On Thursday, junior Alyssa Abbondandolo (Cape Coral, Fla./Oasis HS) tallied a brace in a 2-1 win at Jacksonville State before sophomore Louise Lillback (Stockholm, Sweden/Tibble Gymnasium) found the back of the net twice in a 2-0 win at North Alabama on Sunday.
Abbondandolo also tallied an assist against the Lions to give her five points on the week, enough to be named ASUN Player of the Week for the second time in her career. It was the first time an Eagle has received the honor since Lillback last March.
Junior Katie Sullivan (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North HS/Creighton), who was six minutes shy of a shutout against the Gamecocks, completed the shutout against North Alabama, her fifth of the season.
After four ASUN games, the Eagles are the last remaining undefeated team in the conference. In the East divsion, Liberty is just behind FGCU, sitting at 3-1 after a 4-1 victory over Central Arkansas on Sunday. Lipscomb leads the west division as it improved to 3-1 in the ASUN after a 3-0 win over Kennesaw State, Sunday.
Entering Thursday’s matchup, Kennesaw State sits with an overall record of 5-6 and an ASUN record of 2-2. The Owls are coming off a 1-1 week after beating Central Arkansas, 4-3 in overtime before falling to Lipscomb.
Ebony Clarke leads KSU with four goals this season while Macie Rainwater is not far behind with three. Tianna Rivera, Kathryn Schreck, and Jenna Vollrath all have three assists for the Owls. In goal, Dylan Pixton has started every game and is averaging 5.36 saves per game, tops in the conference.
North Florida enters the week with the best overall record in the ASUN at 8-2-1. The Ospreys picked up two wins last week against Bellarmine and Eastern Kentucky to improve to 3-1 in the ASUN. This season, they have a win against top-100 RPI team Western Carolina as well as a draw with Florida.
Thais Reiss is the reigning ASUN Player of the Year and is off to another great start in 2021 as she has eight goals this season, including five game-winning goals, the most in the country.
Mercedes Sapp also returns to the Ospreys after being named ASUN Goalkeeper of the Year a season ago. So far in 2021, she has six shutouts and an .860 save percentage, second-best in the ASUN and top-30 in the nation.
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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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