JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just one minute into the second half, things looked bleak for the Jacksonville University women’s soccer team as Northern Kentucky converted a penalty kick that made it 2-0 in favor of the Norse. Six minutes later, the heroics of Julia Burton had the match tied at 2-2. A goal with 10 minutes remaining from Kaitlyn Bassett – her third of the weekend – nosed the Dolphins out ahead and completed a stunning turnaround as JU held on for a 3-2 victory.
The comeback turned out to be just the third time in the history of the program that JU has recovered from a two-goal deficit to win. Both other occasions came in 2000, with a 4-3 win at Miami on Oct. 1, 2000 serving as the last time Jacksonville had managed the feat before today.
Now 9-5-0 (4-1-0 Atlantic Sun), Jacksonville has won four matches in a row, the longest streak since the 2010 Dolphins won seven straight en route to an A-Sun regular season title.
For a team that entered play in last place in the conference, Northern Kentucky never lacked for confidence and it showed right from the start. Though JU held significant advantages in shots and corner kicks in the first half, the Norse stayed strong in the back and allowed very few chances. In fact, the only save of the opening 45 minutes for NKU didn’t even come from goalkeeper Tanner Ruberg. Adriana Rodrigues connected well on a header in the 38th minute, but the ball was cleared off the line thanks to the alertness of a Norse defender.
Minutes later, Jacksonville was whistled for a foul on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Sami Rutowski to try a penalty kick with less than three minutes until the break. Sarah Sierra guessed right, but the ball was well-placed and went in low on the right side to give NKU a 1-0 lead.
The second half wasn’t even a minute old when Northern Kentucky was handed its second gift of the contest. A tussle on the back line between JU and NKU attacker Allison Ponzer gave the Norse another penalty, and again Sierra dove in the right direction only to see the ball get past. This time it was Casey McMillan who scored to put Northern Kentucky up 2-0.
A lot of time remained in the contest and JU wasted no time in getting back into it. After a couple of apparent handballs went begging in the first half, Jacksonville finally was the recipient of the call in the 50th minute. A NKU defender made contact in the box, allowing Burton to step up and whistle a ball past Ruberg to slice the deficit to 2-1.
Less than three minutes after her first goal of the season, Burton again stepped up. In the 52nd minute, she advanced out of deep midfield position and blasted another one past Ruberg off a pass from Sarah Moghadas, giving new life to the Dolphins.
With the score knotted at 2-2 and still nearly 40 minutes remaining, NKU still looked to break when possible, but Jacksonville began to create more and more chances in front of the Norse net. The Dolphin breakthrough came in the 80th minute as Bassett converted the winner off a pass from Joy Grove just on the edge of the six-yard box. The goal was Bassett’s 11th of the season and sixth game-winner. Northern Kentucky failed to attempt a shot in the final 10 minutes, giving the Dolphins three more important points in the A-Sun race.
“We knew today was going to be a fight,” said Head Coach Brian Copham. “We knew from scouting them that this was a much tougher team than what their record indicated. It would have been easy for us to have packed it in down two goals and just think that today wasn’t our day, but we showed resilience and made the plays we needed to come back.”
With the win, Jacksonville improves to third in the conference, ahead of Kennesaw State and Mercer who were both idle on Sunday. The Dolphins remain one point back of Stetson and four behind Florida Gulf Coast after both squads won on Sunday, but JU has four matches remaining in the regular season to just three for both the Hatters and Eagles. Jacksonville will make its final regular season road trip of the season next week, facing USC Upstate on Friday night and East Tennessee State on Sunday afternoon. Both matches will be broadcast on ASun.TV.