In the highly anticipated (first time since 2019) return of NCAA postseason soccer to the John Walker Soccer Complex, second seeded Texas Tech downed the FGCU Eagles, 1-0 on Friday night in front of a raucous crowd of over 1800.
Powered by a pair of world class passes from Peyton Parsons and Giselle Kozarski and a magical finish by Alex Kerr, the second-seeded Red Raiders (16-1-4) will move on to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament where the seventh-seeded Princeton Tigers wil await one week from tonight (Nov. 17).
In what could be described as simply sensational, it was the moment of brilliance from Kozarski and Kerr in particular, that pushed the Red Raiders into the second round for the fourth time in program history.
After a beautiful run and feed from reserve Parsons, Kozarski trapped the pass and chipped a perfect ball to a streaking Kerr, who let it bounce twice, before ripping a right-footed shot into the upper right-hand corner for the long awaited first goal of the match.
The strike was Kerr’s 11th goal of the season and came four seconds in the 74th minute. After scoring just 12 goals in four seasons at Vanderbilt, the graduated transfer has now scored 11 in just 21 matches as a Red Raider.
It was a frustrating night at times for Kerr and the Red Raiders, as Tech outshot FGCU (12-5-5) 26-6 overall, including a dominate 9-0 stretch over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Much like the first over 70 minutes of the match, that stretch, despite the relentless pressure, did not result in goal.
In the end, the Red Raiders placed nine of those 26 shots on frame, as the Eagles true freshman goalkeeper Olivia Molina turned in an eight save performance that included countless key stops.
From the opening minutes, Tech was the more aggressive and dominate team as the Red Raiders tallied almost 70 percent possession in the contest.
Heading to the locker room locked in a scoreless battle, the Red Raiders erupted in the second half, outshooting the Eagles 18-2 in the final 45.
The latter of those two offensive chances for FGCU came on a Kendall Gargiula shot that bounded off the post and safely over the touchline for a Madison White goal kick.
White was forced to make just one save in her 12th clean sheet of the season.
With the shutout, White moved into solo fourth place on the single season shutout list and now has recorded a program-record 38 clean sheets.
White and the Red Raider backline has now recorded seven consecutive clean sheets at home dating back to Aug. 31st’s 6-1 win over North Texas.
Through tonight’s result, Tech has now outscored opponents 14-0 in the stretch and has outscored opponents 32-2 at home for the season.
HC TOM STONE:
“First, we would like to congratulate Florida Gulf Coast and Coach Jimmy [Blakenship] for an unbelievable season. They were down 3-0 in their conference final and came back to win it, to get here. The won 12 games, and were deserving of a tournament appearance just like us. They were better in person than they were on video. I’ll say that much for him and gave us some problems and as the game stayed tight and was close. When they nicked one off the post, you know that could have been their moment. So, they came up with a great plan, I thought they played really well. Hats off to those guys for being such a tough opponent. As far as our team goes, this was how we kind of looked all season, I felt like we were totally engaged. Everyone was locked in, and I couldn’t be prouder of these two (Alex Kerr and Gisselle Kozarski) right here. You know, two seniors playing their last college soccer and they just had tremendous games. You know, Alex was a pain in their side the whole night. She actually scored a more difficult goal than some of the other chances that she might have had, but you know, when you’re a game-winning goal scorer, that’s what you do. You get the game winner. And she did that for us today. And this is G’s best game of the year, both ways, you know, offense and defense, possession and taking people on, I mean, her and Kylie [Bahr] were like a track meet on the left side of the field. They were brilliant tonight. So, I’m pleased to be sitting with these two because they really, among the many other players who played great, these were two outstanding tonight.”
On playing host to historic programs like Alabama, North Carolina and Princeton:
“I don’t know how many titles they’ve got between them, but it’s a ton. I went to school eight miles from UNC… So, I have ton of respect for them, and their coach is personal good friend of mine. Obviously, UNC coming to town is a big deal, but for now we’re going to worry about Princeton. Princeton had a great season, and they got a big win against Michigan tonight. So, our biggest concern is Princeton right now, but to your question, Alabama and [North] Carolina was in the College Cup last year, and Princeton seems to be in the NCAA Tournament every year. What a distinguished three teams that are coming to Lubbock, Texas. We are going to put on our party dress, roll out the red carpet, and we’re going to fly the Goodyear Blimp over this town if we have to, to welcome them here. Such storied programs and athletic departments, deserve the royal treatment, and Texas Tech is going to give it to them. We hope that it’s just a great weekend. The two games on Friday should be incredible. And then the two lucky teams, the two fortunate teams, the two winners get to play in a showdown on Sunday. So, it’s amazing to have them come here and we’re proud to show off our campus and our new field and the John Walker Soccer Complex, it’s really a blessing to be able to host those teams. We’re ready to bring them in.”
As previously mentioned, the Red Raiders will roll into the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament where a familiar postseason foe awaits, the Tigers of Princeton. Tech beat Princeton 3-0 at the John Walker Soccer Complex back in 2018.
Tech and Princeton will clash at a time to be determined, as Friday’s action will also feature a pair of College Cup participants from 2022 in Alabama and UNC. The third ranked Tar Heels and sixth-seeded Crimson Tide will face off.
The two winners of Friday’s Second Round matches will do battle on Sunday for a spot in the Quarterfinals. Game times for the three matches next weekend will be announced soon.