The Stetson women’s soccer team was unable to sweep opening weekend of Atlantic Sun Conference play, falling to Jacksonville (6-5-0, 1-1-0) by a score of 2-1 on Sunday afternoon.
After topping North Florida in the conference opener 1-0 on Friday night, the Hatters (3-6-1, 1-1-0) got out to a less than stellar start on Sunday. Jacksonville outshot Stetson 8-4 through the first 45 minutes and took a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute when Kaitlyn Bassett popped a shot over senior Victoria Troccoli and into the back of the net.
“I thought the first half was really poor,” Stetson head coach Manoj Khettry said. “I thought the second half was fantastic, and what we did was just challenge them and say ‘if we’re going to be a team that can qualify for an A-Sun Tournament, if we’re going to be the kind of team that shows character, heart, determination, grit, will…we have to be better on Sunday.’”
A pair of tough saves by Troccoli late in the first half may have given the Hatters the confidence that was so evident throughout the second period. Jacksonville’s Bassett was at it again, getting on the end of a cross in the box, and heading a ball that would undoubtedly ended up in the net if Troccoli hadn’t sent it the other way. Bassett’s second shot off the rebound was also saved by Troccoli.
The Hatters outshot the Dolphins 9-2 in the final 45 minutes, and recorded six corner kicks in the game to just three for Jacksonville. Khettry was pleased with the performance.
“The effort was fantastic,” he said of the second half. “I thought our shape was really good. They play a formation that you don’t see too often so from a tactical stand point we tried to get as many switched balls as we could. When we were able to play side-to-side, I thought we were able to open them up and create some really quality chances.”
All of that offensive pressure turned into a game-tying goal in the 61st minute. Starting with senior forward Kait Jones getting a tough tackle on a Jacksonville defender, the ball ended up at the feet of senior Alyssa Welsh, who found senior Amber Grose with a nice touch to the middle of the field.
Grose then played a perfect ball into the box towards a sprinting Paige Law. The Jacksonville defender attempting to mark Law was forced to reach out for the ball, and ultimately knocked it into the back of her own net, making it 1-1.
“Paige was the player she was intending her ball to go to, and Paige’s run was such a good run that it put the defender into an awkward situation,” Khettry said of the play. “If she doesn’t clear that ball Paige gets to it and it’s a goal.”
Unfortunately for Stetson, Jacksonville wasn’t done scoring. In the 82nd minute Cassie Elmore carried the ball to the endline and played a ball to the far post. Bassett, who is near the top of the A-Sun in scoring with eight on the year now, was in the right place at the right time to head the ball into the back of the net and put the Dolphins up 2-1.
“It’s part of the growing process to know that we’re in the last 10 minutes and we have to tighten our belt buckles and make sure we don’t give up any chances, but kudos to them,” Khettry said. “They’ve been a consistent A-Sun Tournament team, and they know that on Sunday, in the last 10 minutes of a 1-1 game that they had the determination, the maturity, and the experience to take advantage of an opportunity that they had.”
Jacksonville held on for the 2-1 victory, evening up their A-Sun record to 1-1 on the year. Stetson, meanwhile, fell to 1-1 in conference play.
The Hatters will head on the road next weekend to take on Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky. Stetson is at the Bisons on Friday at 8:00 p.m. and at the Norse on Sunday at 12:00 p.m.