You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Someone must have been whispering this in the ears of the players who make up the Francis Marion women’s soccer team as they took the field for the first night game on FMU’s campus since 1983.
The girls were coming off of a disappointing 3-0 loss in their season opener, but spirits were still high for the home opener.
“I was eager for the game to get underway,” head coach Frank Pitt said. “It was a good opponent to be playing as our first home game. I knew it would be a good match,”
But no one, not even Pitt, could have predicted just how good of a game it would be.
The Blue Hose from Presbyterian College were playing in their first match of the year, but they came out strong against the Patriots. Presbyterian went ahead 1-0 in the 19th minute. The Patriots evened the score at one when senior Kelly Kady scored her first goal of the season in the 41st minute of the game.
Up against the halftime clock, and only two minutes and seventeen seconds after Kady’s goal, Presbyterian retook the lead with a five yard goal and went up 2-1, thus sealing momentum heading into the halftime break.
“We were all disappointed with the decision making that lead to both goals,” coach Pitt said. “I told them [the team] we had to make better decisions for the entire period so that we didn’t give up soft goals. I also told them that we had to apply more pressure because that’s what Presbyterian was struggling with.”
Despite the halftime coaching from Pitt, Presbyterian increased their lead only three minutes and thirteen seconds into the second half. It was the final goal of the night for the Patriot’s adversary.
Junior Yasmin Bunter scored her first goal of the season just over two minutes later to trim Presbyterian’s lead to 3-2. Exactly twenty minutes later the scored was again tied. Sophomore Chanel Harris headed in a pass from fellow sophomore Elizabeth Asare. The score was now 3-3.
Despite two more scoring attacks from the Patriots, lead by sophomore Brittney Smith and freshman Arianna Pierner, they were not able to get the ball across the goal line that would have given them a one goal advantage before the end of regulation time.
Enter the first period of overtime.
Smith just missed a match winner when her 29 yard shot went just over the crossbar. The Patriots then missed a chance to end the game when two corner-kicks, one in the 102nd minute and one in the 103rd went in front of the goal but were left untouched by Patriot players. The first period of overtime ended with the score still tied at three.
Enter the second period of overtime.
Each overtime period lasted for ten minutes; the Patriots needed every single one of them. At 109:52, with just eight seconds remaining, Asare received a pass from Bunter just inside the 6-yard box and kicked it past Presbyterian Goalkeeper Sydney Fontenot for her first goal of the season, and the Patriots first win.
“I thought it was a dream!” Asare said.
“I literally had to ask one of my teammates to pinch me to assure me it was real. I was excited, proud, but mostly just relieved that all of our hard work had paid off! To have been able to get my first goal of the season as the winning goal just pumps me up and encourages me to keep getting better!”
Coach Pitt echoed Asare’s sentiment.
“…For us to get the winner with less than 10 seconds on the clock was pretty awesome,” Pitt said.
“I am a striker and I am expected to finish,” Asare said.
And finish the Patriots did. With the crowd of close to three hundred still cheering, the team dog piled on top of Asare right in front of the goal.
“We will definitely use this game as a tool to keep us motivated at all times no matter what team we are playing and how far behind we are,” Asare said.
Pitt commented on the win.
“I was happy that we got a win on the official opening of Hartzler Field,” Coach Pitt said. “It was a big night for our team, the school, and of course for [athletic director] Murray Hartzler!”
With a new field, more fans, a new coach and promising players, the Patriot women’s soccer team is ready for a big year.