FORT MYERS, Fla. – A period of heavy rain could not dampen a bright performance from the FGCU women’s soccer team Sunday afternoon. The Eagles (8-2-1, 1-0-1 ASUN) used three first half goals to defeat Kennesaw State (5-5-3, 0-2-1) 3-0 and jump into second in the ASUN Conference standings.
“We were excited to get playing and get back into a rhythm,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “Our first game, we go on the road and face a very good Stetson team and get a point. I felt like some of the kids were a bit disappointed and then Friday we’re out here for two hours and we don’t get to play. So I was really pleased with the way we responded and they set a standard. It was important to get off to a good start and getting those early goals really helped.”
After the Eagles had Friday’s conference home opener postponed, the Green and Blue made the most of Sunday’s affair. Rain once again began falling heavily, this time after the opening whistle, as FGCU hoped to pick up its first win in ASUN play. Three first half goals were the difference in the Eagles’ victory over the Owls as Marjorie Boilesen (Sao Paulo, Brazil/Porto Seguro/West Florida), Varin Ness (Sogndal, Norway/Sogndal Vidaregåande Skule/Carson Newman), and Nikki Hudson (Baltimore, Md./Roland Park County School/Rutgers) all found the back of the net. Melissa Weck (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza HS) and the defense posted their sixth shutout of the season, withstanding one frantic period in front of goal that saw the visitors post four shots within seconds.
FGCU was the first to pose a threat when Boilesen delivered a clever flick over the Owl defense that sent Ness into space. The Norwegian wasted no time in testing KSU goalkeeper Tiffany Sornpao only for her attempt to go wide of goal.
With rain still pouring down, the Eagles grabbed the lead. Hudson gathered the ball, found space along the left side of the field and delivered a cross toward Emilie Olsen (Frekhaug, Norway/Tertnes VGS) in the center of the box. The sophomore got a touch on it, redirecting it toward Boilesen who hammered home her team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Not long after, Ness took advantage of a mistake in the Owl defense. The Norwegian applied pressure and won the ball back after a KSU defender slipped which immediately put the forward alone with the goalkeeper. Ness never hesitated, slotting her fifth goal of the year past Sornpao.
Ness was almost alone with the goalkeeper again in the 21st minute after Holly Fritz (Cape Coral, Fla./Mariner HS/Florida State) played her through, only for Sornpao to come off her line and gather the ball before Ness could get a touch on it.
Just three minutes later, it was Ness again, this time on the counter. Camille Knudstrup (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins HS) cleared away a corner that resulted in Ness and two other Eagles with an advantage in the attack. KSU was able to recover however, delaying a third FGCU goal.
Just before the 30-minute mark, the Green and Blue struck again. Shortly after coming on, Lauren Greene (Lakeland, Fla./George Jenkins HS) and Hudson combined in the center of the field with the latter beating two players before delivering a left-footed shot into the back of the net.
Comfortably ahead, FGCU was tasked with a Kennesaw State corner late the half and the visitors nearly cut into that lead. A well-delivered service into the box resulted in two blocked shots, a save from Weck and a final attempt striking the post before being cleared from danger and keeping the advantage at 3-0 after 45 minutes.
As the match entered the second half, Ness continued to test the backline. Two minutes in, Ness was ruled to be barely offside when Fritz played a perfect ball behind the Owl defense.
With an hour gone, Hope Van Wagner (Avon, Ind./Avon HS) had a clean look at goal but the new goalkeeper Mady Carter got a touch to it, sending it over the bar. Shortly after it was Ness again, turning her defender and sending a quick shot toward goal only for it to go just wide.
FGCU’s final chance came courtesy of Boilesen, who hit the post before Ness sent the rebound over the bar.
The Green and Blue closed out the match, securing three points and moving into second place in the conference standings. Weck (8-2-1) made four saves in the match while Hudson finished with a team-high three points.
FGCU goes back on the road to face NJIT and USC Upstate next weekend. The Eagles and Highlanders are scheduled for a 3 p.m. start Friday in Hillsdale while FGCU and USC Upstate are set to meet Sunday at 1 p.m.
For constant, news, photos, videos and updates you can follow the women’s soccer team on Twitter @FGCU_WSoccer, on Instagram @FGCU_WSoccer or on Facebook: Facebook.com/FGCUWSoccer. You can also find FGCU athletics on YouTube by visiting YouTube.com/FGCUEagles.
IRMA RELIEF DONATIONS
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, many individuals and families throughout Southwest Florida are still in desperate need of assistance. To aid in those relief efforts, FGCU Athletics will be collecting donations at all Eagle home games for the immediate future, beginning with both of this weekend’s women’s soccer matches. Donation items most needed include: non-perishable food, clothing, household items and first-aid supplies. Additionally, those unable to attend upcoming home games can drop off donations in canisters located in the Alico Arena lobby. All donations will be given to those hardest hit in Lee and Collier counties.
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 and 2015, has built FGCU women’s soccer into a yearly contender in the ASUN Conference and a rising program in the South Region in just 10 seasons. Blankenship started the program in 2007 and has since guided the Eagles to nine double-digit win seasons, culminating with ASUN Regular Season Championships in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2011 and 2012 he also led the Eagles to back-to-back ASUN Tournament titles and 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. Blankenship has guided FGCU to a 137-49-21 (71.1 W%) overall record through the first 11 seasons of the program’s existence, including a 67-10-14 (81.1 W%) mark in the ASUN. Blankenship’s impressive career record of 377-120-32 (74.2 W%) over 25 seasons has come while leading FGCU, the University of Miami, Lynn University and St. Thomas University.
FGCU Athletics sponsors events throughout the year to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness