The Florida Tech women’s soccer team came into the Sunshine State Conference tournament seeded sixth. On Sunday, they walked out of Nova Southeastern Soccer Complex with the trophy in hand. The Panthers beat the fifth-seeded Tampa Spartans 4-2 on Penalty kicks, claiming the first conference title in the history of the program.
All four of the Panthers shooters scored in the penalty kicks round, with the game-winner coming off the foot of Jeeda Al-Naber.
This was the second meeting between these two teams in the conference title match. They met in 2010 at the NSU soccer complex, with Tampa coming away with a 1-0 victory. That match went into overtime as well, with Tampa scoring in the 98th minute. Prior to Sunday, Florida Tech’s last win over Tampa came on 10/24/2015, a match they won 3-1.
Sunday’s match was a defensive battle throughout, as Florida Tech’s Karlyn Prisco and Tampa’s Caroline Frykgard showed their senior leadership between the pipes, not allowing a goal in 90 minutes of regulation or the 20 minutes of overtime that followed.
The Panthers (10-7-2) got the first big chance with 24:35 left in the first half when Maria Munoz got a free-kick and rolled one through traffic. The ball went into the net, but the offside flag was already up and the goal was taken away.
Tampa’s best chance of the first half came with 37 seconds left when Alexa Sheridan took a corner kick and Prisco made the stop.
Keira McCarthy got a shot early in the second half for the Panthers, but it was easily picked up by Frykgard. Miranda Gonzalez was awarded a free-kick with 4:49 gone in the first half after she was taken down about a yard from the box. Her shot went wide and the Panthers dodged a bullet.
Panthers coach Dustin Smith received a yellow card a couple minutes later, but not much explanation was given as to the reason for the card.
Florida Tech looked to be in good shape when Kelley Johnson intercepted a pass and ran 60 yards, only to see her shot go wide of the net. A corner for Tampa with 6:50 left in the half resulted in a header for Lacy Nasello that went less than a foot over the crossbar.
The Panthers last push in regulation came with 2:00 left when McCarthy looked to be in great possession for a header, only to have Frykgard leap up behind her and take away the chance.
Florida Tech had 11 shots on goal in regulation, five were on net. Tampa took six shots, with Prisco only having to make one save.
The two overtimes were fairly uneventful, that is until the second one was in its final stages. With 2:12 left, Erika Peitersen made a run toward the net and with the offside flag up and the whistle blown, she barrelled into Prisco. Though it was clearly accidental, it could’ve been a bad scene for the Panthers had Prisco been injured. Any worries about that would soon be wiped out.
In the penalty kick phase, Tampa got the first chance and Nacello sent a rocket in on Prisco, who made the initial save, only to have the ball deflect into the net.
Munoz took the first shot for the Panthers and made it look easy, tying it 1-1. Sheridan was next for the Spartans and she had Prisco moving in the other direction, only to have the shot go off the post.
Elin Svensson scored easily for the Panthers, leaving it up to Tampa’s Ali Robinson, who beat Prisco and tied the round, 2-2. McCarthy was next up for Florida Tech and she lofted a soft shot over Frykgard’s head and into the net.
After Prisco made a diving save on Gonzalez, the Panthers last shooter was Al-Naber, who put the ball just far enough away from Frykgard’s outstretched hands.
With that, the Panthers won their third straight game, took the title and earned an automatic bid into the NCAA South Regional, denying Tampa their seventh SSC title. Prisco notched two shutouts in the tournament to help the Panthers to the title and she was rewarded for her efforts, as she was named tournament MVP.
For more info: Florida Tech at Tampa Box Score (SSC Championship @ Nova Southeastern)
Updated: The Panthers will face third-ranked Lee University (16-4) in Friday’s NCAA opening round. The Panthers (9-7-3) come in as the sixth seed. Lee won the Gulf South Conference tournament, beating Mississippi College 1-0 on Sunday.