Cross-town rivals duel this weekend at FAU

“Every single game is a game that you have to battle,” said women’s soccer Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt.

That’s the tone of the locker room after the first weekend of Conference-USA matches for the Panthers. Chestnutt’s team began their conference schedule with Old Dominion University and Charlotte University with a respective win and a loss.

The 1-1 conference record holds the Panthers at the seventh spot, with their next opponent settling right underneath them, at number eight. Florida Atlantic University (6-5-1, 1-1) sees the Panthers on Friday, Oct. 3. The Owls are not unfamiliar with this Miami team, as they’ve shared a long history, the most recent match being in the 2013 season, where the Panthers won 1-0 in Boca Raton.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. In FAU’s case, they lost to a weak Old Dominion team—a team that was handled 2-1 here, in Miami. The Panthers lost to a Charlotte team that was beaten by the Owls 1-0 this season.

Goals in first halves have been a common trend for the Panthers this year. In the first 45 minutes, the back of the net has been found eight times, versus four times in the second half. What needs to improve for the Panthers is their ability to contain the pressure applied by their opponents after scoring early.

“We’re confident about ourselves,” said senior forward Ashleigh Shim. “We just have to put [the game] away a little bit earlier.”

The Panthers may be able to find that spark in the second halves that they’re looking for against a FAU team that is outscored by opponents 13-12. While not a big margin, the Owls are allowing a shooting percentage of 96% for opposing teams. The Panthers are shooting 94% on the season.

Those ingredients can produce savory goals that Chestnutt will look for his team to capitalize on.

“We’ve gotta be prepared,” said Chestnutt. “They’re gonna be ready. For [FAU], it’s a huge game. For us, it’s another game, but it’s another conference game.”

FAU brings to the match two high-volume scorers, each with three goals this year: Claire Emslie and Hildur Hauksdottir. That serves as an interesting counter to the duo of Shim and redshirt senior forward Chelsea Leiva (combined nine goals).

The cross-town match will likely favor the Panthers’ defense, as they are tied for second in the C-USA in shutouts with five.

Defenders Sara Stewart, Nikki Rios and Marie Egan have been three players that are continuing to impress as they strengthen the iron curtain against opposing teams’ pressure.

Something about the defense assistant coach Kyle Schroeder touched on before conference play began, was this: “We’ve been trying to make sure we’re covering the gaps and our movement is synchronized… [Those are] just some of the things we’re trying to shore up in the back.”

The Panthers have not played a road game since Aug. 31, but are no strangers to success away from home. Their 2-1 away record during non-conference matches this season provides confidence for the upcoming three-game road trip (FAU, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Middle Tennessee University).

“We do a really good job of possessing the ball in the first half,” said Shim. “If we can look to do that against FAU and keep a cool head, I think we’ll be fine.”

The Panthers play under the Friday night lights in Boca Raton against FAU, 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3.

About the Author

James Profetto
:Staff Writer for FIU Student Media. Majoring in Broadcast Media. Sports guru with a passion for movies, music and getting to know people. Aspiring play-by-play commentator. You'll see me on TV one day.

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