Nov. 19, 2010

Courtesy of Florida Tech

TAMPA, Fla. (Women's Soccer) - Florida Tech has notched a spot in the NCAA Division II Quarterfinals after defeating 17th-ranked Tampa 3-2 in penalty kicks Friday night at Pepin Stadium. By advancing to the Elite Eight, the Panthers capture their first-ever South Region title.

Before both teams squared off in the shootout, Tech (10-6-4) and Tampa (16-5-2) played to a 1-1 draw following 90 minutes of regulation and a pair of sudden-death overtime periods. Casey Lademann tallied the Panthers' lone goal off a free kick in the 48th minute, and the Spartans' Brittan Spence netted the equalizer with less than 14 minutes to play in the second half.

"It was an incredible game," Tech head coach Fidgi Haig said. "I need to give Tampa credit for how well it played. They shut us down completely, but sometimes the team that plays the best doesn't always win. In the end, it's the team that is the most resilient and the one that wants it the most. We'll take the win understanding that on Sunday, we'll need to do a much better job as far as keeping possession under pressure, in order to win against a strong Lenoir-Rhyne team.

"We'll need to put this game behind us and be thankful that we picked up a win against a very tough, organized Tampa team."

Little did the Panthers know that for the third time this season, they would advance into overtime against the Spartans. But unlike the previous two meetings, Friday's showdown needed to be decided in penalty kicks where the Crimson and Gray have found success this season. Previously, Tech earned a pair of shootout wins over Florida Southern. The first came in the semifinal of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament, while the second was recorded in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

This time, Haig's strong-willed team needed to come back from a 2-1 deficit in the shootout. Goalkeeper Mist Eliasdottir played a significant part by making back-to-back saves on shot attempts by Courtney Peffley and Cina Salemi. With two points on the board as a result of penalty kick conversions by Paula Lillsjo and Rachel Devlin, Christina Edwards booted in Tech's third tally to give her team a 3-2 advantage. With the match on the line, Spence's shot hit off the post, enabling the Panthers to capture the monumental win for the program.

"Once we started penalty kicks, I knew I was going to save at least one," Eliasdottir said. "It was just a feeling I had. All in all, losing to Tampa twice in one season is not acceptable. We definitely didn't want to lose to them a third time. Scoring the initial goal was a tremendous boost for us. We stepped up our play in the two overtime periods. I just thought, if we advance to penalty kicks, we'll have a good chance of winning. Thankfully, we were able to pull it out."

Eliasdottir was aided by a relentless Panther defense. Devlin, Ann-Marie Helgestad, Carlene Harrison and Brittany Rainbow held a potent Spartan attack to just one goal. Of Tampa's 14 shots, half reached Eliasdottir.

"The defense did a phenomenal job, but that wasn't the first time they've played that well," Haig said. "They've been very consistent this season. Freshman Carlene Harrison has done a tremendous job. Ann-Marie and Rachel Devlin have been playing with injuries. Despite all of the injuries, the team has persevered and that shows a lot of character."

The Panthers will now prepare for their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals. On Sunday, they will take on Lenoir-Rhyne, who defeated Armstrong Atlantic 1-0 on Friday, at 12 p.m. at Pepin Stadium. The winner will advance to the Final Four, scheduled for Dec. 2 at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.