FIU falls to Arizona 2-0 in home opener

James Profetto/Staff Writer

A crowd of 379 FIU and Arizona fans alike joined the women’s soccer team in kicking off their home and season opener of the 2014 season. The fans were electric, thanks in large part to the FIU men’s soccer team leading chants like the famed “I believe that we will win” and singing “Ole, ole, ole, ole!” until their collective breaths drew shorter.

The Panthers had a physical battle all night against the tall Wildcats team. There were plenty of 50/50 opportunities to be had by both teams; three yellow cards that were handed out (all to FIU) and a bit of scrappy play between both squads. Unfortunately for FIU, they were on the short end of Friday night’s stick.

“It was hard to keep the ball under control for us today,” said redshirt senior Chelsea Leiva. “I think [our main problem was] keeping the ball on our half, the attacking half of the field.”

Arizona capitalized early on a misguided clearance by the Panthers and scored goal one of two in the fourth minute. Freshman goalkeeper and international recruit Nevena Stojakovic had the start tonight and found herself busy early. While the first goal was by the skilled Arizona Wildcat forward Alexandra Doller, who finished the night with three shots, one on goal and a goal, Stojakovic didn’t seem to let off the pedal. Her aggressiveness paid off at times and that helped her get three tough saves on the night.

Johanna Volz, senior midfielder for FIU, had a solid outing to begin the season. While the box score is blank, her contribution on defense and timely tackles kept FIU in the game.

As for the overall team defense, Volz had this to say: “It wasn’t our best performance, but we know what we need to do to get better… I have faith that the next game we will do what needs to get done. We have a great group of girls.”

After the early goal, FIU’s confidence seemed to “peak,” according to Volz. A spark off the bench came via freshman midfielder Courtney Phillips. Beginning the night as a non-starter, Phillips proved her worth against an Arizona defense that seemed unbreakable until the end of the first half, breaking down Wildcat defenders left and right.

“She was just composed. That’s the bottom line,” said head coach Thomas Chestnutt.

Aside from the miscues, FIU had areas of success tonight. Tenacious attitude by each Panther, even after being down a woman on a late second yellow card, resulting in a red card, issued to midfielder Sara Stewart. The team had more shots in the first period than Arizona (6-4) as a result of their in-sync play on both offense and defense towards the 25-minute mark of the match. The second goal of the night came on an 11-on-10 advantage for Arizona. Having the 11th woman on the field makes all of the difference and most likely doesn’t allow for a late goal.

Another area of optimism can be found in Leiva’s strong play. With three shots on goal, she says she feels “good” and “stronger than before.”

Chestnutt feels that the goal is to now look forward to the University of North Florida and use the first match-up as a learning tool for the rest of the season.

“At the end of the day, I thought our team fought hard. We certainly highlighted some things we needed to work on. We’ll get better from it and prepare now for [UNF],” said Chestnutt.

FIU looks to get their first win against UNF in Jacksonville, FL, on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Notes

The starting 11 for FIU were: Stojakovic, Leiva (captain), Volz (captain), Egan, Shim, Montoya, Robinson, McMurtrie, Stewart, Rios (captain) and Bowden.

Chelsea Leiva flashed her nasty footwork to break free from a Wildcat defender at the nine-minute mark. Expect more of this in the 2014-15 season.

Arizona had six corner kicks, while FIU settled for just three.

Ashleigh Shim seemed to be swarmed every time she touched the ball, but displayed her speed and quickness in creating opportunities for her and her teammates throughout the night.

Arizona’s Gabby Kaufman gets the win for tonight, while Nevena Stojakovic gets handed her first loss.

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