FORT MYERS, Florida. –The FGCU women’s soccer team earned a 3-2 overtime win over Central Arkansas on Sunday in the ASUN semifinals. First-year student Erika Zschuppe (Kirtland, Ohio) scored in the 106e minute as the Eagles secured a spot in the ASUN title game for the first time since 2017. The No. 2-seeded Green and Blue will face the No. 1 seed Liberty Flames on Friday at 7 p.m. in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“We went through a rollercoaster of emotions today,” said the head coach Jim Blankenship. “UCA did a phenomenal job and it showed a lot of character in their team that they responded every time we scored. I loved how our ladies also responded with three amazing goals. We were resilient all year round and we are incredibly happy to move forward.”
All five goals in the match came after half-time starting with the first year Marla Gaudlitz (Werder, Germany) scoring with a header from a perfect corner in the 56the minutes from Louise Lillback (Stockholm, Sweden), who took over today for the first time in his four-year career.
The Eagle’s lead only lasted eight minutes, however, as UCA’s Anna Kerr scored on a breakaway goal in 64e minute.
Malaysia Melancon (Naples, Fla.) nearly gave the Eagles the lead in 80e minute, but his shot hit the crossbar.
In the 84e minute, the Eagles got their fifth corner of the match. With Lillback taking the corner, she sent the ball into the box and after bouncing it found the foot of Lea Scarpelli (Brick, NJ), who passed it past the diving keeper into the bottom left corner of the net.
The jubilation was short-lived as the Bears responded again less than two minutes later, taking advantage of miscommunication between the Eagle’s defense and the goalie. Katie Sullivan (Wheaton, Ill.)
In the first overtime period, Grace Paradise (Kingston, NH) had the best chance for the Eagles, but his shot was stopped by UCA goaltender Keyla Perez.
With the score still tied at two, the game headed into the second overtime period where Zshuppe played the hero. After receiving the ball from Paradis, she made a few moves before firing a shot just inside the 18-yard box, slotting it into the top left corner of the net, nothing Perez could do there.
Having the lead for the third time in the contest, the Eagles got through this time. The Bears had one last chance as they earned a corner with less than a minute remaining, but FGCU cleared the ball to secure the victory.
The Eagles head to Lynchburg in search of their seventh tournament championship, but the first since 2017. The FGCU will also be looking for revenge as the Flames handed the Eagles their only conference loss this season, a 2- 0 at Osborne Stadium on September 18. .
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COACH JIM BLANKENSHIP
A veteran of more than two decades in collegiate coaching, head coach Jim Blankenship, who was named ASUN Coach of the Year in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2019, has made FGCU women’s football an annual ASUN conference contender and a growing program in the Southern Region in just 16 seasons. Blankenship started the program in 2007 and has since guided the Eagles to double-digit winning seasons every year except for the COVID-shortened 2020 season, culminating in ASUN Regular Season Championships in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. and 2019. In 2011 and 2012, he also led the Eagles to back-to-back ASUN Tournament titles by becoming the first team in college history to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles won the 2014 ASUN Tournament and hosted the first NCAA Championship event on campus. The Eagles earned their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance with the 2015 ASUN Tournament Championship and won their first NCAA game at USF in 2015 while finishing 24th in the nation. In 2016, the Eagles made three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament with a third straight ASUN Tournament title. A year later, the Eagles became the first ASUN women’s soccer program to host four consecutive NCAA tournaments with another tournament title in 2017. Blankenship guided the FGCU to an overall record of 196-74-28 (. 698) in the first 16 seasons of the program’s existence, including a 101-20-16 (.791) mark in ASUN. Blankenship’s impressive career record of 436-145-39 (.732) over 32 seasons came while coaching FGCU, University of Miami, Lynn University and St. Thomas University.
IT NEEDS A TEAM to achieve our most recent goal – a $10 million campaign to address the needs of student-athletes for continued academic success, life skills, mental health, nutrition, strength and conditioning as well as needs of the department for expansion and improvement of facilities as well as mentoring and leadership training for coaches and staff. The name embodies our mission and the goal of the EAGLE – Eagle Athletics Generating Lifetime Excellence campaign. Join our team and commit your donation today to help the Eagles of tomorrow!
FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to contribute, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and use the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
ABOUT THE FGCU
FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 92 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 15 seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just 11 seasons of DI playoff eligibility, the Eagles brought together 45 teams or individuals competing in NCAA championships. In 2022, the men’s golf team became the first program to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Eight FGCU programs ranked in the top 25 nationally in their respective sports, including women’s basketball (#20, 2021-22), beach volleyball (#20, 2022) and men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s football. (2018) as four of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Vert et Bleu posted the department’s best sixth place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top 100 nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and Florida State’s top seven teams won the NCAA Public Recognition Award for their rate of academic progression in their sport. FGCU also collectively achieved a record 3.50 in-class GPA in the fall 2020 semester and outperformed the general undergraduate college population for 26 consecutive semesters. The last five semesters (Fall 2019 – Spring 2022) saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a cumulative team average of 3.0 or higher. The Eagles also served an all-time high of 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two finalists for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.