Overtime Goal Allows #18 Coker to Slip Past FSC in Season Opener
LAKELAND – Hugh Seyfarth wanted to know exactly where his team stood right away this year, and after Florida Southern’s season opener against 18th-ranked Coker (SC), the Moccasins are standing pretty tall – even if they didn’t get the win they nearly had. In a match where both sides played well enough to earn a victory, Matt Taylor scored with 4:01 to play in the second overtime, allowing Coker to take it by a score of 2-1.
“With the type of schedule we’re going to face this year in the Sunshine State Conference, we needed to be battle-tested early in the season and couldn’t afford to open up with an easy game,” said Seyfarth. “I thought that may have hurt us last year when we weren’t ready to play teams like West Florida or the other teams in the SSC.”
Seyfarth got the test he wanted. Coker was a squad with 10 returning starters back from its 2011 team that won the Conference Carolinas regular season and tournament titles, and earned a spot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Moccasins were more than up to the task, however, even when they were down by a goal in the waning minutes of the second half. It was fifth-year senior Ashley Holmes who provided the equalizer, drilling home a penalty kick in the 85th minute that sent the game to extra time.
Coker was able to break the tie late in the second overtime period during a 3-shot sequence in the 106th minute. The first was deflected by FSC goalkeeper Andres Guzman and resulted in a corner kick, and the second was blocked inside the box by defender James Gibson. Carlos Recinos was able to collect the loose ball on the left side of the box and got it back to Taylor in the middle, who one-timed a 12-yard shot that found the net and lifted Coker to the win.
The first half of Thursday night’s game ended without a goal. The Mocs had to weather a storm in the middle stages of the period though when the Cobras took four of their seven first-half shots in the span of roughly four minutes. The sequence started on a counter-attack by the Cobras, with Guzman forced to come out for a challenging save against Eric Stiefield. On the ensuing corner kick, Rommel Fondin found space for two shots, but had one stopped at the back post by freshman midfielder Carlos Rodriguez, and the other one saved by Guzman. Another shot by Stephen Scrivens two minutes later was blocked by Holmes.
Early in the second half, it was Florida Southern who nearly scored the first goal of the match when Rodriguez lofted a long free kick into the box where it was headed toward the goal by freshman midfielder Thomas Blumenthal. For a heartbeat it looked as if the ball would reach the net, but Coker goalkeeper James Sweeney made a spectacular save to tip it away at the last second. Rodriguez, who had an active night in his college debut, then sent a shot just over the bar in the 70th minute that again had the Mocs on the verge of taking the lead.
“That was a great save by Sweeney,” said Seyfarth. “That could have been 1-0 right there and changed the entire game.”
Eventually it was Coker that went up 1-0 when Stiefield was on the receiving end of a short pass by Kevin Arellana in the 78th minute, sending a shot past Guzman from the left wing.
The lead didn’t last very long though, as Rodriguez was fouled inside the box with 5:30 to play in the second half, giving the Mocs a chance to tie the game from the penalty spot. Holmes was on target, and the Mocs had new life.
A long overtime game was the last thing either team wanted on a humid night with intermittent rain that tested the reserves from both sides. With cramping and fatigue an issue, substitutions were frequent. That meant players like James Gibson and Clay Clingerman saw extended minutes on the back line for Florida Southern, and both were among the standouts.
“Those were quality minutes from James and Clay tonight,” said Seyfarth. “Our entire bench played well though, and it’s nice to have the freedom to be able to do that. It makes things a lot more competitive in training too.”
“We gave a tremendous effort tonight,” said Seyfarth. “I’m very, very pleased with the way we played even though we didn’t get the result we wanted. Coker is an extremely talented team and well-coached. It could have gone either way. We showed we could play with anyone in the country tonight.”
Florida Southern’s next game will be Tuesday, September 4, in Miami Gardens against St. Thomas.