Led by a pair of two-goal performances by seniors Alyssa Welsh and Kait Jones, the Stetson women’s soccer team (5-6-2, 3-1-1) took care of visiting USC Upstate (3-7-3, 0-3-1) by a score of 4-1 on Friday evening at the Athletic Training Center.
The decisive victory improved the Hatters’ record to 3-1-1 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, placing Stetson in a tie for second place with Mercer. The two teams, with 10 points each, trail only defending champion Florida Gulf Coast, which holds 13 points.
“Any time you can score a number of goals like we did, I think they feel pretty good,” Stetson head coach Manoj Khettry said. “As a coaching staff we were kind of disappointed that we gave up a goal, let them back into it. They made it difficult for us, but we were fortunate enough to respond with some goals.”
Respond they did. The Hatters scored three second half goals, two by Jones and one by Welsh, to earn the squad’s first four-goal match since defeating Florida Atlantic 5-2 on Sept. 8 of last season. Stetson outshot USC Upstate 26-7 for the match, and recorded six corner kicks to the Spartans’ one.
“The mentality is good,” Khettry said. “I think the mentality is that we want to be an A-Sun Tournament team. We know we have a lot of games left, we know we have difficult games left, but we’re going to try our best to accomplish that feat. I’m really proud that they’ve bought into that.”
The Hatters came out of the gate swinging as Welsh scored off of an assist from sophomore Jenna Premo in the 12th minute. Premo stole the ball from a Spartan defender and played it to Welsh, who beat one defender and put it past goalkeeper Sarah Plantz to give Stetson the early lead.
After dominating the first half, Upstate came out hungry to start the second, evening things up at 1-1 on a nice set piece from just outside the box. Kenzie Major ran over the ball before Rebecca Sanzsole played it to her dead on at the top of the box. Major beat Stetson keeper Victoria Troccoli to tie the game just five minutes into the second half.
Stetson responded quickly though, as Jones scored her first goal of the night just over four minutes later. Freshman defender Alyssa Swett made a long run down the right sideline – as she did all game long – and played a ball across the box from the endline. Jones controlled the pass and beat Plantz to give Stetson the lead once again.
It was in the 69th minute that senior roommates Jones and Welsh connected to give the Hatters a 3-1 advantage midway through the second half. It was Welsh crossing the ball into the box from the endline this time, finding Jones, who one-touched a shot past goalkeeper Ellen Bright in the 69th minute.
With just over 10 minutes to play in the match, Welsh made her final mark on the contest, receiving a long through ball from sophomore Mara Keomanivane and beating Bright on a breakaway to give Stetson the 4-1 victory.
“I’m happy for them,” Khettry said of Welsh and Jones. “A lot of what we have been doing has been geared towards individuals taking responsibility in the front third. It’s great for [Jones and Welsh]. It’s great for their confidence, but also, that’s the way you want to go out as a senior. You want to go out having played your best, and having helped your team get to where they want to be, so I’m really, really happy for those two.”
With two goals and an assist on the night, Welsh now leads the Hatters with nine points on the season (four goals, one assist). Jones, meanwhile, is tied with senior Amber Grose for second on the team with eight points (four goals).
Stetson will continue the weekend home-stand on Sunday, playing host to ETSU at 1:00 p.m. at the Athletic Training Center.