Late goal propels women’s soccer to shorthanded win in ASUN home opener

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

The University of North Florida (UNF) women’s soccer team picked up their second consecutive win on Sunday despite facing multiple setbacks in an exciting duel with Jacksonville State University (JSU) of Alabama.

It was a defensive battle for much of the match, with the game going scoreless for the first 85 minutes. A late mistake cost the JSU Gamecocks dearly, as the UNF Ospreys took a late lead they never surrendered. 

One week removed from their best performance of the year against Stetson, the UNF Ospreys were back in action. In the days that followed their last outing, Thursday’s match against Kennesaw State was postponed due to Hurricane Ian. This gap could have derailed the team’s momentum, with head coach Eric Faulconer acknowledging the challenges that weather presented.

“Obviously, [there] was a lot of disruption with training and so forth, but we were able to get in a couple of short sessions later in the week when the storm passed,” Faulconer said. “Glad to be at home- every other game this year has had some sort of weather issue so at least we were able to get it in today.”

Soccer player works the ball downfield
Blue skies were more than welcome on Sunday, as near-perfect conditions set the scene for a thrilling match. (David Heitz)

Sunday’s skies called for umbrellas, but not how Floridians are used to needing them. A golden sun beamed down on a lively crowd at Hodges Stadium, which made plenty of noise throughout all 90 minutes.

Early on in the match, there were little to no scoring chances to speak of. The Ospreys largely dominated possession, but couldn’t make anything of it. Things remained quiet, as UNF outshot JSU 5-3 in what ended up being a scoreless first half.

As the second half got underway, it became evident that one goal would likely be all it would take to win the match. One goal sounds doable, but going about getting this on Sunday was a much different story.

It wasn’t until around the 64th minute that the Ospreys really began stirring things up in the final third. Midfielder Chloe Lynch, who went down early on with an injury, returned and nearly scored the match’s first goal. Instead, the shot went wide right of the post as things remained scoreless.

Midfielder winds up leg to kick the ball
Midfielder Chloe Lynch never gave up, returning from an injury to contribute in UNF’s pursuit of a goal. (David Heitz)

Less than five minutes later, another opportunity materialized for UNF when defender Haynes Grant set up fellow defender Brenna Robinson in front of the goal. This chance fizzled out, though, as Robinson wasn’t able to make solid contact on the ball. In a match like this, not capitalizing on these moments could have proven costly.

Something far worse reared its head not too much later, though: a red card. This came in the 75th minute when UNF defender Marissa House took out a JSU attacker, denying her a goal-scoring chance. This resulted in House getting booked, meaning that the Ospreys were now shorthanded.

While red cards are often viewed as a death sentence, Coach Faulconer saw this pivotal moment in a different light. 

“Sometimes when a game goes 10 vs. 11, it opens the field up a little bit more,” Faulconer said. “We kind of took advantage of that and were able to get that scoring opportunity.”

Immediately following the ejection, it appeared as though this would be detrimental for the Ospreys. The Gamecocks sent the free kick off the crossbar, mere inches away from being the first goal of the afternoon. Shots continued to rain, but UNF goalkeeper Sofia Miliancano never buckled. 

Soccer player prepares to kick the ball towards the net
Jersi Dadah was the hero on Sunday, giving the Ospreys the only goal of the game in the 86th minute. (David Heitz)

Finally, the moment that UNF fans had waited all day for had finally arrived. The Ospreys caught JSU goalkeeper Bailey Dean far outside her post and did not let this opportunity go to waste. UNF forward Allie Fekany sent a crosser over to forward Jersi Dadah, who put it in the back of the empty net.

Cheers erupted from the crowd that had been patiently – and not so patiently at times – waiting for their team to break ahead. There were still four minutes remaining, though. It was anything but a done deal. 

The Gamecocks did everything they could, but weren’t able to find the equalizer. There isn’t much more of a dichotomy in the emotion of sport than what transpired Sunday. The thrill of victory filled the UNF team huddle, while a devastated JSU squad gave up a game-winner with just four minutes left in the match. 

The Ospreys will look to extend their two-game win streak when they hit the road Thursday to take on Lipscomb University. UNF now sits at an even 2-2 in ASUN (Atlantic Sun Conference) play, allowing them to take it one match at a time. Sunday’s effort was far from perfect, but they got the job done when it mattered, a skill that can take a team far.


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