Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jacksonville Proves Defense Wins Championships

Coming into the 2013 Atlantic Sun Women’s Championship Final FGCU had not lost to a conference opponent in 16 games and was the top-seed facing second-seeded Jacksonville. In the regular season the Eagles came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory against the Dolphins.

The Jacksonville squad had something to prove heading into the start of the championship match.

Defense wins championships.

Boasting the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Ally Lee, JU focused on defense all season but understood they had to step it up a notch for the championship.

Head Coach Brian Copham explained “We had to defend a lot, but we expected that playing a really tough FGCU team. We wanted to compete and defend and we did just that.”

Lee and the Dolphins’ goalkeeper Sarah Sierra set the defensive presence on the field as Sierra grabbed ten saves in the match.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight coming into the game but we settled down and played our defensive style in the second half, we talked ourselves through what we needed to do throughout the game,” Lee said.

Both Lee and Sierra stripped the ball off the aggressive FGCU offensive line several times. As the squad faced the top-goal scorer in the league, Tabby Tindell, Lee came in with excitement with the expectations the team had for her in the match.

“It’s always a great feeling when you face a forward who is playing well in the conference and she’s the Freshman of the Year so I knew she was going to have a great game,” Lee expressed. “I just focused on getting good positioning on her and tried beating her to the ball to help my team but a lot of it was adrenaline.”

Copham was pleased with how well his defense executed, “Ally Lee was fantastic, she tracked down several fast paced players on the Florida Gulf Coast team. To track down a few of those players and slide in for some hard tackles was huge for us.”

Tindell and Sierra went head-to-head numerous times as the freshman Eagle found seams that led to breakaways throughout the match.

“We knew Florida Gulf Coast was going to go hard but in the end we played our heart out, I knew that a lot of people were riding on me and I knew I needed to step it up,” an exhausted Sierra said.

Sarah Sierra held the shutout for the Dolphins after regulation and two hard fought golden-goal overtime periods and stood between the posts riding a wave of adrenaline in penalty kicks.

Sierra was not expected to be in goal this season after she endured a nine month recovery last season with an ACL tear.

“It took me nine months to come back from my ACL surgery,” Sierra said. “I was in the physical training room everyday over the summer. I worked my butt off and I am stronger than ever. I think today it really showed.”

After Sierra’s performance she landed the A-Sun Championship MVP Honors and more importantly a chance to play another game in the 2013 season as the Dolphins will play in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship.

“Sometimes when you come off an injury you aren’t sure where players are mentally, but Sarah came in ready to compete and her performance today was a testament to that and she earned the Championship MVP,” Copham boasted.

The defensive effort led the Dolphins to their second A-Sun Championship after a finishing penalty kicks 5-3. This marked the fourth time in A-Sun history that a Championship Final went to PKs.

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