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Panthers Crowned SSC Champions for First Time in Women’s Soccer Program History

Florida Tech Outlasts Tampa
4-2 in Penalty Kicks

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Under a cloudy sky on Sunday afternoon, Florida Tech (10-7-2) reached a historic milestone for the women’s soccer program, as the Panthers were crowned Sunshine State Conference Champions at the NSU Soccer Complex. In a battle that endured until the shootouts, Florida Tech clawed the title with a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Spartans (9-7-2).

The game reenacted the 2010 SSC Finals match, which saw the Spartans earning the title after a narrow 1-0 win. However, that year the teams squared up in the NCAA South Regional Championship match, where the Crimson and Gray outlasted Tampa in penalty kicks.

Prior to Sunday’s match, Tampa held an 8-3-3 edge over Florida Tech over the past 10 years, including a 1-0-1 record in SSC postseason play. With today’s win, FIT records its second win over Tampa since Oct. 24, 2015, when the Panthers overpowered the Spartans, 3-1.

During the conference match, FIT outshot Tampa 13-10, taking an 8-4 advantage in the second period. Additionally, the Crimson and Gray held a 5-1 shots-on-goal edge over the Spartans.

As a team, Florida Tech ranks second in the SSC leaderboard for shots (316) and shots on goal (130), and averages 13.95 shots per game. Moving into the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers have totaled 28 goals, 17 assists and 62 points.

“This team showed great resolve and togetherness, which allowed them to accomplish something that had never been achieved in Florida Tech women’s soccer history,” said head coach Dustin Smith. “Winning the SSC Championship took a team effort that we have been preaching about all year. We will enjoy the moment before getting back to work in preparation for the NCAA Tournament.”

Recognized as the 2017 SSC Championship MVP, redshirt senior Karlyn Prisco earned the award after showing a dominant performance inside the six over the duration of the tournament. The honor marks the first such award in Prisco’s collegiate career, and  she enters the NCAA South Regional Tournament with 85 saves and eight shutouts, both conference highs. Additionally, the Rockledge product boasts a 4.47 saves per game average and a .794 save percentage.

Reeling off the first and third penalty kicks respectively, Maria Munoz and Keira McCarthy led the Panthers offense to combine for seven total shots. The All-SSC offensive players have been a staple in the Panthers’ game scheme this season, as the two-way midfielder and attacker sit high on the SSC and team leader boards.

Currently, Munoz sits uncontested in the SSC for shots (74) for the third week straight, with an average of 3.89 shots per game. With her numbers, the Weston native also ranks seventh for goals (6) and game-winning goals (3). And McCarthy is sixth in the league for game-winning goals and holds a .222 assist-per-game percentage.

Also contributing in the afternoon thriller was Elin Svensson, a five-year veteran inside the Panthers lineup who sank the second goal of the shootout. The redshirt senior has been a fundamental player for FIT this season, notching four goals and 46 shots for the Panthers. With her total, Svensson is fourth in the SSC for total shots, averaging 2.42 shots per game.

Filling big shoes during a crucial moment, freshman Jeeda Al-Naber broke the tie-breaker after netting a historic goal for the Crimson and Gray. Al-Naber has only come in off the bench a few times this year, but has proved to be most reliable in finals play.

Beginning regulation during the 2017 Sunshine State Conference Finals, neither team posed an offensive threat within the first seven minutes of play. Conversely, the match’s first shot came from Tampa around the 8-minute mark. After a quick save by Prisco, Florida Tech began to establish its offensive presence in the Spartans’ defensive third, forcing Caroline Frykgard to make her first save of the afternoon. However, as the Panthers continued to find their vision, back-to-back offside positions gave the ball back to Tampa. With the clock counting down, the teams struggled to break through and headed scoreless into the intermission.

Returning from the break, the Melbourne lineup heightened its offensive tempo and harassed the Spartans goalkeeper. For the Panthers, McCarthy, Svensson, and Munoz all combined to place four of the team’s seven shots on goal during the second period. Coming up short-handed, however, the game was tied at the end of regulation play and sent into the first overtime.

In the extra periods, several cards were given out as tempers began to flare, but the 110-minute match ended in another stalemate to leave the title on the line in penalty kicks.

Making each of their first two attempts, a third attempt saw Florida Tech gain a slight edge over UT. Svensson was able to sneak the ball past Frykgard to put the Panthers ahead 2-1, but Tampa responded on the next kick to bring the score even at 2-2.

On the next attempt by FIT, McCarthy netted the third goal to regain the lead, while Prisco came up big in the goalmouth against Tampa’s Miranda Gonzalez. With everything riding on the last kick, Al-Naber stepped up to the penalty spot for a shot that would  mark a milestone in Florida Tech women’s soccer history. Making the kick, the Amman native lifted FIT to a 4-2 victory to mark its first conference title.

Assistant coach Jessica Monarch said, “I am so proud of each and every one of these girls today. They dug deep this week to find desire, heart and unity to do something special. They were committed to each other and the belief that they could accomplish their goal to make history together.”

With the win, FIT received an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II South Regional Tournament. The first round of the tournament is on Friday, Nov. 10, with time and location to be determined.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, the NCAA will hold the selection show, where FIT will find out what seed they are and what team they will face.

For more information, visit FloridaTechSports.com.

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