For the first half of Sunday’s ASUN final, the Lipscomb women’s soccer team was within arm’s reach of its first-ever conference title.
Florida Gulf Coast was not having any part of it.
The Eagles recovered from a 2-0 deficit with two second-half tallies and a double-overtime goal to top the Bisons, 3-2, at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex. With the victory, FGCU took its fourth-consecutive ASUN championship and clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“We had a really difficult semifinal that drained us – probably more than FGCU’s semifinal drained them,” Lipscomb coach Kevin O’Brien said. “We kind of ran out of gas. We didn’t have the legs we needed to push through it.”
FGCU downed Lipscomb in both the 2015 and 2016 title games, and ultimately had the Bisons’ number once again this year, as Varin Ness scored a breakaway goal to lift the Eagles in sudden-death overtime.
“To lose the conference final in Golden Goal…these girls are going to be hurting,” O’Brien said. “But I tell them each and every week that their identity isn’t found in soccer.”
With 19 minutes left in the first half, Lipscomb went up 1-0 when Hannah Torbett rocketed a shot off the post and into the back of the net. The tally – Torbett’s first of the season – came from nearly 25 yards out.
12 minutes later, Lipscomb’s Ellen Lundy made it 2-0 with her eighth goal of the season. The score came off a cross from Olivia Doak that was headed to Lundy by Arielle Hansford.
FGCU’s Holly Fritz and Camille Knudstrup each tallied second-half goals to knot the game at two and force overtime.
The Eagles (14-3-1) dominated much of the second half and the two overtime periods, and finally broke through with Ness’ goal in the 106th minute.
“The wind was at our face during the second half, making it difficult to get the ball forward,” O’Brien said. “Between that and our tired legs, it just wasn’t our day.”
Lundy, Niamh Rawlins and Jade Abarca were each named to the ASUN All-Tournament team.
Lipscomb (9-7-3) graduates five seniors including Lundy, Rawlins, Abarca, Natalie DuBoise and Paige Miller.
“They’re champions in my book, and I’m proud of each one of them,” O’Brien said. “I hurt for them, but it’s a soccer game, so we move forward.”
O’Brien said the senior class has helped the Lipscomb program reach new heights. The group finished with a 43-23-11 overall record in their four years.
“We weren’t competitive before those seniors got here, and they’ve changed the landscape to where we’re now really competitive,” O’Brien said. “More importantly, their character and leadership off the field has been phenomenal. They’re great kids.”
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics