There were lights, cameras and a whole lot of action for the Panthers this weekend in California. After coming off a 1-0 loss to No. 15 Santa Clara on Friday, the Pacific Tigers of Stockton, CA, were the next stop. Coming into their match Sunday, both FIU and Pacific University were 1-2 on the season, looking to reach .500 for the first time in 2014. Before coming back home to Miami, the Panthers had some unfinished business to handle, which was to be settled with a win.
Last season, the Panthers were 4-5 on the road, giving home teams reason to lick their lips in anticipation of their meeting with the Panthers. This season, the tale of the tape has seemingly started off on a note that can resonate throughout the locker room. After playing three-straight away games, FIU is 2-1 and returns to South Florida with a 2-2 overall record. Sunday’s win served as a much-needed boost of confidence for the team and, more specifically, for a certain redshirt senior.
Forward Chelsea Leiva had zero goals this season before placing her cleats onto Knoles Field. After 69 minutes, Leiva finally found the back of the net thanks to a lovely ball serviced in by redshirt junior midfielder Scarlet Montoya, marking her second assist of the season.
With Leiva’s goal, she brought herself to a career 71 points, which is fifth all-time for any FIU women’s soccer player. Leiva not only made history, but she proved again that her leg can produce during crunch time for her team. With the lone goal, she has 13 career game winners.
Although the results were different, the efficiency in the first half over the past two games had been apparent. The Panthers, through 45 minutes, had four shots and three on goal against Santa Clara and mirrored that ratio against Pacific’s goalkeeper Jacqueline Kane on Sunday. The question after 45 minutes is this: Can the offense consistently shoot and, eventually, score?
The answer is yes.
FIU out-shot Pacific 4-2 in the first half and acted as the aggressors in the second half (4 shots to Pacific’s 3). Freshman goalkeeper Nevena Stojakovic kept her team in the thick of things by producing two saves and her second shutout of the season. After the game, Stojakovic mentioned they played well as a unit, recognizing that the defenders were just as aggressive as her.
Hidden beneath the historic day was the fact that five Panthers had at least one shot on goal (seven as a team). Ashleigh Shim, senior forward, had two shots on goal today, coming very close to scoring on an early first half try inside the box. Leiva had two shots on goal, alongside Montoya, Talia McMurtrie and Sara Stewart with one each. Not even the six offside calls by Referee Matthew Buckman’s crew could stop the outpouring of offense by FIU.
Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt and his team return home in lieu of a match against a familiar opponent in Florida Gulf Coast University. With Leiva’s confidence restored and the defense complimenting the offense, the Panthers look to get to 3-2 on the season.
And, what better way to flaunt a winning record than on one’s home field?
FIU (2-2) seeks a commanding win against Florida Gulf Coast University on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.
The starting XI for FIU: Stojakovic, Leiva, Volz, Egan, Shim, Montoya, Hernandez, McMurtrie, Weinhardt, Stewart and Rios.
The seven shots on goal were the second most for FIU through four games.
The Panthers made Pacific head coach Keith Coleman scramble for a solution all day. FIU’s five substitutes played a total of 166 minutes compared to Pacific’s 10 subs, who played a whopping total of 256 minutes. That’s what happens when you’re in the driver’s seat.