Header pic: Maria Sanchez Recuero – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics
In their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2017 the fifth-seeded Florida Tech Panthers women’s soccer team (10-3-6) outlasted the fourth-seed Mississippi College Choctaws (11-4-2) on Friday, at Ray Conn Sports Complex at Lee University, winning the match on penalty kicks, 4-1.
The win earns the Panthers a second-round date with the top-seeded Lee Flames on Sunday, November 21 at 2:00 p.m.
Let’s GO Panthers!!!!! https://t.co/TShVJH9PWO
— Florida Tech Athletics (@FT_Athletics) November 19, 2021
It was a hard-fought, defensive battle throughout as regulation ended with no score and the teams playing through two 10-minute overtimes with nothing being decided.
This was the second straight loss for Mississippi College on penalty kicks. They lost the Gulf South Conference championship match to West Alabama, 5-4 on penalty kicks.
Florida Tech goalie Maria Sanchez Recuero stepped up big as she has throughout the season, coming up with eight saves, two of those coming in the first overtime and one in the second overtime. She also saved one of the shootout chances.
Choctaws netminder Sara Maleski was equal to the task, coming up with six saves for her squad, but the Panthers were able to solve her in the penalty kick rounds.
These two teams were very stingy during the regular season with the Panthers allowing nine goals this season and the Choctaws allowing 14. Offensively, Mississippi College scored 44 goals this season and the Panthers defense made sure that number didn’t change on Friday.
The first half of the match was a virtual stalemate with the Choctaws registering four shots and the Panthers getting two. Each team had one shot on goal with Mayara Queiroz Reis getting one for the Panthers in the 12th minute and Kaylee Foster getting one for Mississippi College in the 23rd minute.
That was a tough save for Sanchez Recuero as she came out of the net to cut the shot off and she deflected it just enough for Jeeda Al-Naber to kick it out from in front of the net, and save the Panthers at that moment.
— Florida Tech Women’s Soccer (@FloridaTechWSOC) November 19, 2021
The offense picked up a bit in the second half, with Sanchez Recuero having to make two saves in the first eight-plus minutes. Maleski had to make a save of her own moments later.
That second half saw the Choctaws take nine shots, with four on goal. The Panthers took nine shots, five were on goal.
In overtime Sanchez Recuero made a save 42 seconds in, reaching above her head to grab the ball. She had a tougher save 1:59 later, diving to stop a great shot by Kaylee Foster. She would come up big again in the second overtime, robbing Lexi Ballon who headed one toward the net that Sanchez Recuero made perhaps her best save of the day on.
With the result still undecided, the two teams were set to decide this one on penalty kicks.
Queiroz Reis was first up for the Panthers, beating the goaltender to gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Emma Young was the Choctaws first shooter and she went wide with her shot.
Vilma Ferdfelt made it 2-0 with her goal for the Panthers and Foster was next for Mississippi College. She converted and made it 2-1.
Emily Swope was next for the Panthers and her shot was good, giving the Panthers a 3-12 lead. After Julia Murdoch missed for the Choctaws, Florida Tech’s Veronica Thordardottir had the game on her foot and she made no mistake, getting the ball by Maleski, sending the Panthers to Sunday’s second.
For more info: Florida Tech @ Mississippi College (NCAA First Round)
The Panthers earned five corners to the Choctawes four. Florida Tech committed 18 fouls to Mississippi College’s 14, and the Choctaws were offside five times, none for the Panthers.
The Lee Flames are ranked No. 1 in the South Region with a record of 19-0 including an 8-0 record at the Ray Coon Sports Complex this season. We will see if the Panthers can hand the Flames their first loss in Sunday’s match.