FIU Women’s Soccer 2021 Recap: Hope for the Future

FIU’s leading goal-scorer Sydney Amparo was also named to the C-USA All Academic team. Photo by FIU Athletics

Kevin Calcagno / Staff Writer

The FIU women’s soccer team’s disappointing season has come to an end, finishing sixth out of the seven teams in the Conference USA Eastern Division. The Panthers finished the season with an overall record of 3-9 and a 1-5 conference record. 

FIU hired Jonathan Garbar as head coach after spending the last four years as the head coach for Franklin Pierce University. Garbar’s team was unable to put together a successful season despite the high expectations that came with his hiring.

Jacksonville Dolphins

The Panthers began their season at home with a 2-0 victory over the Jacksonville Dolphins on Sunday, February 7. This marked the first time that FIU opened their season with a victory since their 2-1 win against the Dayton Flyers in 2015. 

Both teams struggled to get their offense going in the first half. FIU only managed to land one shot on target, which was earned by midfielder Carmen Marin, but the shot was parried away by the keeper. 

Forward Kedie Johnson opened the scoring for the Panthers in the 79th minute off the assist by Marin. Johnson assisted on the second goal just two minutes later, lofting a ball into the air which was guided into the back of the net with a powerful header by midfielder Sophia Vilar.

FIU put the game out of reach and began their season with a well earned victory over the Dolphins.

North Florida Ospreys

The Panthers followed their victory with a 1-3 loss against the North Florida Ospreys on Friday, February 12. 

Both teams struggled playing through the rainy conditions at the beginning of the game. The Ospreys committed eight fouls in the first 35 minutes of play. North Florida found their footing first and scored the opening goal in the 36th minute.

FIU was awarded a penalty kick just one minute before halftime, but were unable to convert it as the goalkeeper redirected the shot. The Panthers went into halftime trailing 1-0. 

North Florida scored again just three minutes into the second half, extending their lead to 2-0. Defender Estefania Cardona committed a foul in the penalty area just two minutes later, giving the Ospreys a penalty kick that they converted to make the score 3-0.

The match was delayed in the 53rd minute due to lightning in the area. After resuming play, Johnson found the back of the net for FIU, trimming the score to 3-1. FIU was unable to score again in the match and was ultimately defeated.

Jacksonville Dolphins Rematch

The Panthers would play the Dolphins once again on Sunday, February 14, earning a 1-0 golden goal victory.

Both teams competed hard for a full 90 minutes, but neither were unable to score in regulation. FIU attempted six shots in the first half, with none of them resulting in a goal. The Panthers defense did not allow a single shot on target in the first half.

FIU managed another five shots in the second half, but they could not find that breakthrough. They finally allowed a shot on target in the 74th minute, but it was saved comfortably by goalkeeper Christina Velazquez

The contest headed into overtime since neither team could find a breakthrough. The Panthers wasted no time in overtime, as just two minutes into the period, Marin assisted midfielder Ronja Cronvall for the game winning goal.

The 1-0 victory over Jacksonville marked FIU’s first golden goal victory since October 23, 2016 against the UTSA roadrunners and put FIU’s record at 2-1.

Stetson Hatters

FIU faced the Stetson Hatters on Thursday, February 18 and fell by a scoreline of 3-1. 

The Panthers earned the first shot on target of the contest, but it was saved. Stetson was able to convert their first shot into a goal in the 16th minute. FIU continued to fight, but surrendered another goal on Stetson’s second shot on target. 

FIU continued to fight and earned a goal in the 30th minute, with Ronvall at the end of an assist from forward Charity O’Neal and midfielder Laia Munoz Dadon. The goal cut the scoreline to 2-1 in favor of Stetson and remained that way until the end of the period. 

In the second half, the Panthers continued searching for that equalizer, but were only able to earn three shots to the Hatters’ five. Stetson scored a heart breaking goal in the 80th minute, and FIU was unable to complete the comeback.

The Panthers were defeated by the Hatters, making FIU’s record 2-2.

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

FIU made the trip to Fort Myers to face the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles on Sunday February 21, where they were defeated by a score of 3-0.

The Panthers surrendered a goal in just the second minute of the game, finding themselves in a hole early in the contest. They continued to play through the early miscue, but only managed 2 shots, with Marin putting one on target. 

The Eagles pressured FIU offensively in the first period, forcing four saves out of Velazquez. Neither team was able to score again in the first period, but FGCU was seeing a majority of the opportunities.

FIU began to find more shots when the second period began, with forward Sydney Amparo and O’Neil firing away to no avail. The Eagles also continued to find shots, and they were able to find the back of the net once again in the 65th minute, extending their lead to 2-0.

FGCU scored another goal just seven minutes after the second, putting the game out of FIU’s reach and sealing the Panthers’ 3-0 defeat and making their record 2-3. 

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

The Panthers took a trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky for a duel against their first Conference USA opponent, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. FIU was defeated in a close game by a score of 3-4.

The Hilltoppers began the game with a strong offense, earning five shots in the first 15 minutes, with the fifth resulting in the game’s opening goal. 

Western Kentucky continued to shoot away, but were unable to convert on any other opportunity in the period. FIU was only able to manage one shot to Western Kentucky’s 11 in a period that was dominated by the Hilltoppers.

FIU looked far better offensively in the second half, but the Hilltoppers struck once again to make the score 2-0 in their favor. Forward Alyssa Storey was able to pull one back just three minutes after, bringing the Panthers to within one goal.

As both teams fought to swing the momentum in their favor, Western Kentucky scored two quick goals in the 72nd and 74th minutes of the game. Storey scored again off an assist by Marin to keep the comeback hopes alive for FIU, making the score 2-4.

The Panthers were able to score another goal in the 81st minute, this time by forward Idelys Vazquez, bringing them to within one goal once again. Unfortunately, FIU ran out of time and they fell to Western Kentucky by a score of 3-4.

This marked the Panthers’ third consecutive loss and put their season record at 2-4.

Old Dominion Monarchs

FIU fell at home in another conference game to the Old Dominion Monarchs on Thursday, March 11 by a scoreline of 0-2.

Both teams fought to earn the momentum of the match, as FIU fired three shots in the first twenty minutes of the contest, forcing two saves by the Monarchs. Old Dominion’s offense was also playing well, recording six shots in the first half to FIU’s five. 

Both teams went into the half without a goal, but no shortage of offense, as the Panthers were forced to make three saves and the Monarchs made four.

The game’s first breakthrough came in the 61st minute, with a goal on a counter-attack by Old Dominion. While FIU continued searching for an equalizer, the Monarchs scored another goal in the 81st minute. 

The Panthers were unable to complete the comeback, and dropped the contest to the Monarchs, extending their losing streak to four games and placing their record at 2-5.

Miami Hurricanes

FIU looked to end their losing streak against their city rivals, the Miami Hurricanes, on Sunday March 14.

Amparo and Storey got off two early shots, getting the Panthers a hot start early on but both shots missed the mark. The Hurricanes struggled in the first twenty minutes, but found a goal following a corner kick on just their first shot on target. 

FIU continued fighting and playing well defensively, with Kiera Gibson making a save shortly after the opening goal. They continued to struggle offensively, and Miami made them pay once again, doubling their lead in the 41st minute. 

The Panthers started the second half strongly, forcing a save from the Hurricanes in the first minute of the period. Miami was able to convert another opportunity just ten minutes later, extending their lead to 3-0. 

Munoz Danon responded with a well placed shot on goal, but it was saved once again by the Hurricanes. Miami responded with their fourth goal of the contest, putting the game far out of FIU’s grasp. 

The Panthers were defeated 4-0 by the Hurricanes, continuing their losing streak and their record fell to 2-6.

Charlotte 49ers

FIU was bested in a tightly contested game by the Charlotte 49ers by a score of 2-1 on Friday, March 19.

The Panthers recorded two early shots, one was saved and the other was just wide of the target. It was the 49ers who tallied the first goal of the game on their second attempt on target in the ninth minute of the game. 

Charlotte fought hard to pull away, firing several shots on target and just wide and dominated for the rest of the period, finding the back of the net for the second time in the 34th minute. 

The Panthers were unable to record a shot for the final 40 minutes of the half, and accumulated 12 fouls and two yellow cards in the first half alone. At the end of the half the 49ers had recorded eight shots to FIU’s two. 

FIU continued to struggle against the 49ers attack in the second half, as Charlotte managed six shots in just 15 minutes. The Panthers kept fighting and were rewarded when forward Courtney Walker scored her first goal of the season to keep the comeback hopes alive. 

As The Panthers continued searching for an equalizing goal, The 49ers pulled away in the 75th minute with another goal to make the score 3-1 and ending the comeback attempt for FIU. They were soundly defeated for the sixth game in a row. 

Marshall Thundering Herd

The Panthers defeated the Marshall Thundering Herd for the very first time on Monday, March 22 snapping their six game losing streak. The match was supposed to be played on February 25, but was rescheduled to Monday, March 22. 

Marshall got off to a hot start, earning three shots and a corner kick early in the contest, but none resulted in a goal. The first breakthrough of the game came when midfielder Laura Chavez found Amparo for a goal in the 20th minute. 

Amparo found the back of the net again just three minutes after, this time assisted by Johnson as FIU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Herd were searching for a goal to get back into the game, and almost found one in the 43rd minute but the shot hit the crossbar. 

In the second half, FIU kept the pressure on Marshall, recording five shots and two corner kicks in the first ten minutes. The Herd were struggling to find gaps to shoot through in the Panthers back line. 

Marshall scored a goal in the 67th minute to cut their deficit to just one goal. While the Herd continued to search for the equalizer, Amparo put the game away in the 84th minute, earning herself a hat trick and making the score 3-1 in FIU’s favor. 

Amparo’s goal was enough to hold off Marshall and earn FIU their first conference victory since 2016.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

FIU followed their victory with a 0-3 loss against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Senior Night. 

The game got off to a catastrophic start for FIU, with Middle Tennessee scoring a goal in the first minute of the match. The opening goal was followed by an own goal by the Panthers in the seventh minute, giving the Blue Raiders a 2-0 lead.

Middle Tennessee scored a third goal just two minutes after the FIU own goal, taking a commanding 3-0 lead in just nine minutes of play. The Panthers caught their footing afterwards, as Storey fired a shot wide of the goal and Amparo shot on target, but it was saved.

FIU continued to improve both offensively and defensively, but they were unable to find a breakthrough in the first half.

The Panthers struggled offensively to start the second half, with Cardona recording their first shot of the period 30 minutes after it began. The Panthers remained stout defensively after the rocky start, not allowing another goal for the rest of the match, but the offense could not find the back of the net.

FIU was defeated in a blowout loss by a score of 3-0 despite Middle Tennessee only leading the shot count 9-8.

Florida Atlantic Owls

FIU finished the season with a 0-3 loss on Friday, April 9 to their rivals, the Florida Atlantic Owls.

The Panthers got off to a poor start for the second straight week, conceding a goal in the fourth minute. FAU continued to dominate, only allowing the Panthers to record one shot and eventually finding the back of the net again in the 25th minute. 

FAU found another opportunity and fired a shot on target, but it was saved by Gibson. The Panthers’ offense was being suffocated by the Owls, recording only two shots in the half to FAU’s 6 with only one of them being on target.

FIU continued to be dominated in the second half, as the Owls continued to shoot at goal and defend effectively. FAU scored a third goal in the 81st minute ending any hope of a miraculous comeback for the Panthers.

FIU was unable to record a single shot in the second half and they were bested in the shot tally 14-2. The Panthers only forced one save out of the Owls’ goalkeeper, showing their inability to find any offensive rhythm. 

The loss brought FIU’s overall record down to 3-9 and their conference record to 1-5.

What’s Next?

Even though the season was disappointing, there is hope for the future. Coach Garbar was hired with just a month remaining before the opening game of the season, so the team should be able to have better chemistry next season with a year of experience playing under Garbar.

Chemistry was an issue for the Panthers this season, seeming to be out of sync especially on offense as they struggled to generate successful counter attacks. The Panthers were shut out in five of their games, and only scored multiple goals in two games.

The team had also gone over a year without playing, so it is understandable that they had chemistry issues, but there are many other problems that need to be addressed in preparation for the upcoming year. 

The Panthers will have time to reflect on the disappointing season and learn from it. Coach Garbar’s year of experience will surely be of benefit to him and the team as they fix their focus on coming out next season and building on this year’s mistakes.

About the Author

Richard Gibson
Former Sports Director of PantherNOW

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