West Florida, the defending NCAA Division II national championship, scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the 39th minute of the opening half. Sashana Campbell tallied the winner on a double assist from Kaitlyn Culotta and Sara Helgadottir.
The two squads battled on even terms until the Lady Flames picked up the pace in the final 10 minutes and came within inches of earning a tie. Leah Fortune and Ode Fulutudilu got great looks at the goal only to be turned away by outstanding saves by the Argo keeper.
"Hats off to their defenders and goal keeper," said a disappointed coach Matt Yelton, who saw his Lady Flames drop to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in the GSC. West Florida, ranked eighth in Division II, improves to 6-0-3 and 3-0-1.
"West Florida is a tough team to play against," explained Yelton, "But we were able to create some good chances. I thought our girls played extremely well, and I think it shows us we can play with the best in this division.”
Playing before a large West Florida homecoming crowd, the Lady Flames fired 11 shots and placed five on target. West Florida had 16 shots and five were on goal. Lee keeper Haley Gribler recorded four saves, and Story had five for the winners.
The Lady Flames will have very little time to rest and get over the tough defeat.
"We've got to go up there and play with the same type of energy and emotion," stressed Yelton. "We've got to put this game behind us and stick with our goal, to improve and play better with each game."
Kickoff at West Alabama is scheduled for 2 p.m.
FLAMES 1, W. FLA. 1, 2 OT
The “Overtime Kids” have done it again, battling to a 1-1 two overtime draw against no. 21-ranked West Florida, but, like in the first meeting with the Argonauts, the contest had a bittersweet ending.
After the two squads battled for almost 86 minutes without a score, Lee's Quade Marinell scooped up a cross from Travis Kiger to put the Flames on top 1-0. Just over three minutes later, Lee was whistled for a foul, and West Florida was awarded a penalty kick, much to the delight of the Friday night homecoming crowd. Fernando Silveira delivered the PK and forced the OT.
Neither squad managed a goal in the extra 20 minutes, and the Flames will make the long ride back to Cleveland with their third OT draw of the year in the Gulf South Conference.
In fact, Lee has battled to five ties overall, losing at home to West Florida in one overtime and to Christian Brothers in two extra periods. Furey's club has also had double overtime ties with Union and Shorter.
The Flames stand at 4-3-3 overall and have battled Gulf South opponents toe-to-toe the entire year leaving a 3-2-3 conference mark.
West Florida is ranked 21st in NCAA Division II competition. The Argos are 7-3-1 overall and 6-1-1 in the GSC.
"Our boys worked hard late, and we knew Quade would get his first collegiate soon," said Furey. "He picked a good night to get it."
The Lee coach praised the effort of Tommy Halsall in goal. He walked away with 10 saves as West Florida fired 24 shots and placed 12 on goal.
"Tommy had a gutsy, solid performance," pointed out Furey.
While West Florida was taking 24 shots, the Flames managed just 12 and three on target. Argo keeper Frederik Bruhn was credited with two saves. West Florida was awarded 10 corner kicks to two for the Flames, which is a testimony to the hard-nosed defense played by Furey's club.
The battling Flames will return to the Lee Soccer Field next Tuesday and host West Alabama. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. In the first meeting with the Wolves, the Flames stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to post the 4-3 victory.