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No. 23 FGCU Caps Unbeaten A-Sun Season
FORT MYERS, Fla. – With the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title already clinched, the No. 23 FGCU men’s soccer team capped the fourth season in program history on a warm Sunday afternoon at the FGCU Soccer Complex with a convincing 6-0 win over UNF to finish with a perfect 9-0 record in league play.
On a day in which the program honored its graduating seniors, including two from its 2007 inaugural team, it was junior Scott Harrison (Cocoa, Fla./Merritt Island HS) who stole the show with the first hat trick in program history. Harrison scored the first three goals of the game for FGCU, pouring in one in the first half and two more over a three-minute span in the second half.
“There was certainly a lot of emotion out on the field today, but it’s been great to see our seniors leave it on the field everyday and they’ve done more then I could have ever asked them throughout their careers,” said reigning A-Sun coach of the Year Bob Butehorn. “The team would love to be playing passed today and we believe we’d go a good distance into the postseason, but these guys have really done something amazing this season. This is a great building block for our program moving into the future.”
The Eagles have improved in each of their four seasons, culminating with a 13-3-2 record this season. The win against UNF sealed an unbeaten record in A-Sun action for the Blue and Green, marking just the ninth time in conference history a team has accomplished the feat.
Over the nine-game A-Sun season, FGCU shutout seven of its opponents, out-scoring them 26-2 along the way. Dating back to the end of the 2009 season, the Eagles have gone 14-2 over their last 16 A-Sun contests. FGCU is set to return 27 players, including 10 starters, next season.
UNF’s defensive strategy to push up its back line did lead to 17 offside calls on FGCU, but also allowed the Eagles to surpass its previous season-best of five goals which came in a 5-0 blanking against 2010 A-Sun Tournament No. 1 or No. 2 seed ETSU. Oddly enough, FGCU’s six goals are one short of its record of seven scored against UNF on Oct. 17, 2008 at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
Harrison’s three goals were his first tallies of the season, giving FGCU 13 different players with a goal this season. With his three goals, Harrison’s six points on the day tied the FGCU single-game scoring record which he also set against UNF in 2008 with two goals and two assists.
The record-setting day didn’t stop with Harrison, as freshman Donovan Henry (Parkland, Fla./Stoneman Douglas HS) established a single-game assists record with three helpers. Donavan’s three assists give him a team-best six for the season and surpass Harrison’s single-season record of five set in 2008.
Junior Cristian Raudales (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee HS) finished the day with three points on one goal and one assist, while freshman Ryan Price (Melbourne Beach, Fla./Melbourne HS) notched his sixth goal of the season to cap things off with an assist from junior Jonathan Hohn (Royal Palm Beach, Fla./Royal Palm Beach HS).
While the offense searched for its rhythm early in the game due to the trap defense, senior keeper Matthew Smith (Cape Canaveral, Fla./Merritt Island HS/Coastal Carolina) kept the Ospreys off the scoreboard with three saves over the first 20 minutes. The start in net was Smith’s first since the 2009 campaign in which he started all 16 contests.
The FGCU offense finally broke through when junior Kevin Ante (Miami, Fla./Varela HS) was able to play a long ball from his left back position up the right side of the field to Henry. With one touch, Henry sped by an Osprey defender and played the ball into the goal box for an easy one-touch goal by Harrison and a 1-0 lead.
The one-goal, 1-0, advantage held up over the final 3:51 as FGCU took the lead into the break despite being called for offsides eight times.
The opening 13 minutes of the second half were a scoring frenzy, as Harrison completed his hat trick with goals in the 54th and 56th minute, respectively, to push the lead to 3-0. Raudales scored next at the 57:27 mark, just one minute and six seconds after Harrison’s third tally, with a header off a pass from Henry to make it 4-0.
Sophomore Westin Valentine (Spring, Texas/Klein Collins HS) found the back of the net for the second straight game at the 65:05 mark off a pass from junior Josey Portillo (Metairie, La./Grace King HS), while Price’s goal concluded the five-goal half.
Smith’s three saves in net were all in the first half, as the FGCU defense limited UNF to one shot over the final 45 minutes. The shutout was the seventh of Smith’s career over his two seasons at FGCU.
For the game, the Blue and Green finished with a 22-6 edge in shots, highlighted by a 16-1 advantage in the second half.
Prior to the game, FGCU honored its graduating senior class of Arjun Jani (Sarasota, Fla./Riverview HS), Caleib Lynch (Merritt Island, Fla./Merritt Island HS), Matthew O’Shaughnessy (Trinity, Fla./Mitchell HS) and Smith who all played their final game in the blue and green.
Despite winning the A-Sun regular season, FGCU cannot compete in the conference postseason tournament due to the NCAA reclassifying period. FGCU will be eligible for postseason play in 2011.