Owls and Mean Green on the Miami horizon for women’s soccer ‘famly’

A conference game and another delay last weekend, Oct. 10-12, provided an up-and-down ride for the Panthers. The match against the University of Alabama at Birmingham is rescheduled for a later date in November, a game that Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt expected to play before next week.

The reason for the delay was reports of tornadoes in the area. Against Middle Tennessee State University, Oct. 12, a whirlwind of two early goals by the Blue Raiders gave the Panthers their sixth loss on the year.

But all of that noise is put into the rear-view mirror.

The most difficult weekend for Chestnutt and his team is on the horizon with two of the top three Conference USA opponents waltzing into Miami. North Texas University (10-3-1, 4-0-1) and Rice University (7-2-3, 3-1-1) are controlling the C-USA with confidence.

Ever since C-USA play began on Sept. 26 for North Texas, they’ve gone 4-0-1 in five games. Their ability to score goals is profound, as they’ve outscored opponents 22-7, holding opponents to 43 percent shooting. Ten Mean Green ladies have scored at least one goal this season, displaying their ability to have threats at every angle. Chances for NTU will come frequently if their previous games are any sort of indicator.

The Mean Green are first in C-USA with 285 shots, averaging 20 per game. Their shutout total is tallying nine on the season (first in C-USA), with the Panthers not far behind with six (fourth in C-USA). For North Texas, Head Coach John Hedlund has helped his team become the most dominant in C-USA to this point and presents a tough obstacle for the Panthers to overcome.

Before seeing the Mean Green on Sunday, Oct. 19, the lady Panthers face Rice University on Friday, Oct. 17. Rice and the Panthers have seen each other only once and a 5-2 victory for Chestnutt and his team became the result. The same success will be harder to come by, though, as Rice is only allowing eight goals on the season (outscoring opponents 24-8), a common trend for the top-tier of the C-USA.

If the Panthers want to defeat the Owls, they must change the narrative of goals allowed (allowing 13 this season). Rice has struggled just a tad on the road this season, going 3-2-1. The Panthers can exploit the Owls’ defense in the first half by grabbing an early lead. Both losses by Rice this season came in overtime, so if the Panthers play a close game, a victory is sure to follow.

Top goalscorers this weekend for all sides will be Panthers redshirt senior forward Chelsea Leiva (seven), Mean Green Karla Pineda (six) and Owl Holly Hargreaves (eight).

Defense will be key during the eventful weekend. Freshman goalkeeper Nevena Stojakovic has 33 saves on the season and will look to add to that total. The “iron-core” of the Panther defense comes at the feet of redshirt juniors Sara Stewart, Nikki Rios and seniors Marie Egan and Caroline Hernandez. They will be busy stifling the different shot attempts that they’re used to seeing.

An early test of what competition may be seen if the Panthers can make the C-USA Tournament is ahead. On Friday, Oct. 17, kick-off is at 7 p.m., while North Texas finds its way into FIU Soccer Stadium 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19.

There is one aspect of this Panther team that cannot be statistically recorded, though; one factor that separates the ladies from the rest of the herd.

“I think this team is more like family,” said Stojakovic.

A family bond is should help in victory.


Photo by Brian Trujillo/ the Beacon

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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