ETSU ends UNF’s Cinderella run

Andrew Nichols

FT. MYERS, Fla. — UNF lost 3-1 to East Tennesse State in its first ever Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Final appearance.

ETSU, seeded No. 3, broke the 0-0 deadlock in the 29th minute with a strike from distance by Nate Hodges. UNF failed to clear the ball properly and the ball bounced to the foot of Hodges who took a touch into space and then fired a left-footed rocket past Sienkiewicz.

The second half opened with a quick body shot to UNF’s game plan as ETSU scored within the first thirty seconds of the half.

Head coach Derek Marinatos said that the goal was devastating for the team and it needed to come out better.

UNF huddles before the ETSU match-up in the semi-finals. (Photo credit: Andrew Nichols)
UNF huddles before the ETSU match-up in the finals. (Photo credit: Andrew Nichols)

“The second goal early in the second half killed us,” Marinatos said. “We came out a little flat from halftime after I tried to encourage them about our game plan in terms of getting the ball forward. At the end of the day we just needed to put more pressure on them.”

UNF’s inability to find the net hindered its performance despite finding opportunities in the attacking third that could not translate to chances.

The first half began defensively for both teams, not allowing each other in the attacking third without pressure.

ETSU recorded the first shot at the six minute mark as a ball was played across the box to Luis Calzadilla. The junior took it one time but was directed straight at Brad Sienkiewicz.

Sienkiewicz, playing his final game for the Ospreys, gave ETSU their due and said the team did well to take its chances while UNF struggled to find a rhythm.

“The way the game unfolded, just all the credit in the world to ETSU for coming out and executing,” Sienkiewicz said. “They took their chances and we were still trying to find a rhythm in the game.”

UNF found runs of good possession, but it was unable to break through ETSU’s wall of defense, getting just two shots in the first half.

ETSU looked dangerous on a cross that found the head of David Gino. He failed to keep it down and watched the ball soar over the bar.

The Ospreys looked dangerous going forward at times through Jay Bolt, Alex Morrell and Pedro Carneiro but were lacking a finished product.

Drew Spragg and Christopher Bush had the best chances of the half. Spragg had a header that went wide and Bush struck a shot that went just above the upper corner and wide with under two minutes left.

ETSU attacked up the left side with Emmanuel Wilson right from the kickoff. Wilson found Donte Bragman inside the box on a through ball and Sienkiewicz couldn’t keep it out as Bragman slotted it past the keeper.

The second half was better from UNF as ETSU dropped off with the two goal lead, leaving plenty of space for UNF to possess and find a goal.

ETSU still found its chances however, accumulating 11 chances through the half, forcing three saves out of Brad Sienkiewicz.

The 82nd minute came with goal from Simen Solstad, a player that hadn’t played all tournament.

A free kick opportunity about five yards back from top of the box had Solstad and Jean Rivaroli standing over it. Rivaroli laid it off for Solstad, who fired it with his left foot into the left corner, leaving Ryan Coulter with no chance.

Solstad, along with Carneiro, were given the All-Tournament Team Award for their efforts in the postseason. Carneiro scored two game winners in the tournament against Mercer and FCGU.

Marinatos thought the team had a chance to get back in the game with the goal, making a dangerous sub by bringing in Solstad who was dealing with an injury and that the heat made a big impact.

“We got back in the game. We made a daring sub with Simen who couldn’t even walk five days ago,” Marinatos said. “We put him in late and he got tired, three games in five days with a one o’clock final, we just had guys die in the first half.”

Just moments later, ETSU put the final dagger in the Ospreys with a goal at the 86th minute mark.

Wilson added it to his assist with a goal, beating a defender at the end line and blasting one past Sienkiewicz at the near post.

Morrell said that the team just lost their energy as the game progressed and by mid 2nd half the heat took its toll.

“For this game we just died out toward the end,” Morrell said. “Our fitness needs to get better which is something we need to work on during the offseason along with other things.”

With the loss, UNF’s season is done. UNF  finished the season with a record of 8-6-3, a four win improvement from last season when the team didn’t play in the conference tournament.

Sienkiewicz enjoyed his last season, starting off strong though dropping games mid-season. However, he was pleased with the desire of the team and its vigor to make a run at the tournament.

“We had the highest of highs starting undefeated but then, to be quite frank, we were shot back down to reality,” Sienkiewicz said. “We persevered and pushed through it and I think that showed in the latter part of the season building to today and making it to the finals.”