Nov. 22, 2009

Courtesy of West Florida Athletics

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - The No. 1 ranked West Florida women's soccer team faced a halftime deficit for the first time all season, but two second half goals led the Argonauts to a 2-1 victory at No. 7 Carson-Newman on Sunday, earning UWF its second straight appearance in the NCAA Final Four. A tactical change by Head Coach Joe Bartlinski directly led to victory, as senior defender Shameka Gordon (Old Harbour, Jamaica/Community College of Baltimore) moved to striker in the second half, eventually scoring the equalizer and assisting on the game-winner.

Carson-Newman came out strong in the first half and claimed a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute on a goal by Nikki Brannen. Brannen received a pass from Trenna Howell and hit the one-touch shot inside the right post and past UWF goalkeeper Courtney Jones (Panama City, Fla./Bay HS).

"We've never had to come from behind like that," explained Bartlinski. "At halftime we made some adjustments tactically and mentally. The character of this team is incredible, being able to battle back into this game on the road."

"We had to make a little change," he continued, "moving Shameka (Gordon) up top and sending Dernelle (Mascall) to the back. Dernelle has had to play in the back earlier this season when Shameka was hurt, and Shameka has experience up top from her summer team. Shameka helped our communication up top, and Dernelle was so composed on defense and was able to clean everything up back there."

The equalizer came at the 68:29 mark, and it started with a run by senior forward Shakira Duncan (Kingston, Jamaica/Darton College) up the left sideline. After having just come off the field with a hurt ankle, Duncan recovered and made a run into space. She turned to her right and put the ball into the box, and the ball bounced to Gordon who put it away for the first UWF goal.

"It felt like slow motion," said Duncan. "I sprinted as fast as I could, but it felt like slow motion because of my ankle. I saw Shameka on the right side, and it was incredible how relaxed I felt. I knew she would make it."

The score remained tied for the next 20 minutes, but UWF kept the pressure on the Carson-Newman defense. The Argonauts finished the game with a 19-2 shot advantage, and they outshot the Eagles 11-0 in the second half.

The game-winner came in the 88th minute, as Shameka Gordon and Shakira Duncan once again connected for the Argos. This time it was Gordon initiating the play, as she found Duncan open for a shot inside the right post from six yards out.

With the win the Argonauts will advance to the NCAA Final Four hosted by the University of Tampa on December 3-5. The Argonauts will face the winner of the West Texas A&M - Cal State Dominguez Hills quarterfinal match in the semifinals on Thursday, December 3 at a time to be determined.

"It's a credit to the caliber of players and the talent that we have here," said Bartlinski. "The run we've had has been incredible, facing very tough teams in North Alabama and Rollins and now coming back to beat Carson-Newman on their home field. There are no easy games at this stage."

UWF returns to Tampa for the Final Four for the second straight year, as last year's team advanced to the NCAA championship game and lost to Seattle Pacific 1-0 in double overtime.

For information on the NCAA Tournament, including times and pairings as they become available, visit For information on all UWF Athletics, visit