JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. For the Jacksonville University women’s soccer team on Friday night, being lucky and good paid off in a big way. Both JU goals were scored off shots that hit either the post or crossbar and went in, giving the Dolphins (5-3-0) just enough to get past a feisty FIU squad at Southern Oak Stadium, 2-1.
In comparison to the fireworks that lay ahead, the opening 45 minutes were bland. The best scoring opportunity of the first period came from FIU’s Kim Lopez just shy of the half-hour mark, who settled a bouncing ball with her first touch and rocketed a ball in at JU keeper Sarah Sierra. Sierra couldn’t get to it, but the ball rose just enough to whistle past the crossbar and keep the match level. Late in the half, Joy Grove played a ball in to Kaitlyn Bassett, but she couldn’t get enough power on her header to trouble FIU’s Paula Zuluaga.
FIU announced its intentions immediately after the second half whistle, pressing forward on Jacksonville’s restart and forcing a turnover that had the Dolphins scrambling to recover. JU quickly countered on the other end and had back-to-back shots from Jessica Cataldo-Ramirez and Marie Weckhurst in the opening two minutes to show for it.
The match continued to open up as it moved past the hour and a goal was seemingly inevitable, but when Jacksonville finally broke through it came from an unexpected place on the field. Miranda Fyfe found herself alone down the right side and played a ball into the box. Rather than curling in, the ball stayed flat and on a line, hitting the crossbar in the upper right corner and dropping down and just past the goal line to put the Dolphins ahead, 1-0.
The lead would last all of four minutes as the Panthers surged forward in search of the tying goal. It came from the foot of Madlen Weinhardt, who had her first attempt on goal blocked, only for it to fall right back to her foot. Keeping her second shot low, she sent it through a crowd and was able to find just enough of a crack in the JU defense to score past a diving Sierra to knot the match at 1-1 in the 72nd minute. Minutes later, FIU was on the attack again and it took a team save to deny the Panthers the go-ahead goal. With five minutes remaining in regulation, Lopez again unloaded a dangerous volley from outside the 18-yard box. This time, it hit the crossbar and went over the top. A shot in the final minute from Grove was handled by Zuluaga and the match went into an extra session tied at a goal apiece.
Sierra saved the match for the Dolphins four minutes into overtime, timing her leap perfectly to push a shot from FIU’s Alyssa Robinson over the top and out of play. Countering after FIU misplayed a short corner, JU pushed the length of the field and nearly won it as Bassett slid a pass across the box to Weckhurst, only for Zuluaga to stand firm in goal and make a heroic save.
The end-to-end action continued for the next few minutes, until Fyfe found Sarah Moghadas open in the center of FIU’s final third. Creating room for herself with some impressive footwork, Moghadas pushed the ball to the right, then whirled herself around to send a shot low and towards the left corner. Though Zuluaga got a finger on it, the ball hit the inside of the left post and trickled across to seal the win and set off a massive Jacksonville celebration on the field.
The Dolphins stay at home on Sunday, ending their non-conference schedule with a 2 p.m. matchup against Furman. The Paladins won’t have to travel far, having beaten UNF, 2-0, in other action on Friday night.