JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An early goal in the second minute looked promising for the Jacksonville University men's soccer team in the final regular season game of the 2018 season, but it was a trio of unanswered goals from visiting Florida Gulf Coast in the second half of a 4-1 decision that closed the door on earning a top seed in the upcoming ASUN Conference Tournament for the Dolphins, Saturday evening at Southern Oak Stadium.
"I'm disappointed that we missed an opportunity to secure a first-round bye, but I'm very pleased with our performance. The result is the farthest indicative of how we played," stated head coach Mauricio Ruiz following the game. "It was a really good game against a really good Florida Gulf Coast team and we played toe to toe. When we pushed toward the end, we gave up two late goals but I'm really proud of the way the guys played. We're a really difficult team to beat, and right now we just have to find that range."
Just two minutes into the game, redshirt-junior Igor Ferreira got the Dolphins (4-12, 3-3 ASUN) on the board with a header past the Eagles' keeper from a drop pass across the net off the foot of senior Selemani Baruani from the right side of goal.
FGCU was able to get the equalizer in the 26th minute as Shak Adams capitalized on a cross-goal pass from Raheem Somersall, and the Dolphins held off the Eagles the rest of the half as freshman keeper Matt Levy recorded three of his eight saves.
With time winding down, the Eagles (9-5-1, 5-1-0 ASUN) seemed to be in the right place at the right time as Jason Van Achteren toed in the rebound off an Adams pass to break the tie in the 74th minute before Miguel Perez scored in similar fashion and knocked in his own rebound in the 84th minute to give the Eagles a 3-1 advantage. Ryan Medilah placed a shot from 23 yards out to close out scoring for the Eagles in the 89th minute.
With a 3-3 record against ASUN opponents, the Dolphins earned the #4 seed in the league tournament and will face the #5 seed Liberty at the #1 seed Lipscomb on Friday, Nov. 2.
The Dolphins have reached the championship final the past two seasons under the leadership of Coach Ruiz despite being the #5 seed in the tournament in both 2017 and 2016.
"Our conference is tight; it's anybody's game," added Ruiz. "We've been in this situation before where we've played the quarterfinal game and we know what's at stake. We're peaking at the right time and we're at our best right now so we're really comfortable facing anybody in the conference."