Jacksonville, Fla. – The fifth-seeded Jacksonville Dolphins pulled off a monumental upset in the 2016 ASUN Conference Men's Soccer Championship Semifinal with a 1-0 victory over cross-town rival and top seed North Florida. The Dolphins head to Fort Myers, Fla., next Saturday for their first ASUN Championship Final since 2008.
Igor Ferreira scored the game-winning goal in the sixth minute and goalkeeper Patrick Harding made seven saves, including the biggest on a penalty shot in the first half to preserve the 1-0 victory.
The Dolphins began the match with a bang as they only needed six minutes to open the scoring. A corner kick from Allan Morgan was redirected by Stephen Spicer down to Igor Ferreira and the freshman spun and fired a low drive into the right corner to stun the crowd at Hodges Stadium and give Jacksonville a 1-0 lead.
The Ospreys slowly began to find their rhythm in the first half and produced some dangerous opportunities after the 25 minute mark. Josh Castellanos headed a Cormac Begley cross right into the arms of Harding. Minutes later, Mikey Connell saw his low drive saved with a diving left hand by Harding. In the 43rd minute, Connell and Harding matched up again, but this time from the penalty spot. After a handball was called in the Dolphin box, Connell stepped up only to see Harding save his shot with the left hand to preserve the lead. Harding picked up where he left off in the quarterfinals with four saves in the first half.
In the second half, the Ospreys came out determined to find an equalizer as they pinned the Dolphins back into their own half for much of the period. North Florida had several great scoring opportunities, but either Harding or Jacksonville's defenders blocked everything that came their way. ASUN Freshman of the Year, Adrian Nunez, sent a shot from the six yard box towards goal in the 58th minute, but Harding stuck a right leg out to save it.
Two minutes later, the Ospreys fired off three consecutive shots, but each of them was blocked by a Jacksonville defender. Milan Kovacs had a good chance from 12 yards out after controlling a bouncing ball with one touch, but he dragged his shot wide of the goal. North Florida's final opportunity of the match came in the 88th minute, as Nunez fired off a shot that was again saved by the heroic Harding.
With the victory, the Dolphins will travel to Fort Myers, Fla., to take on No. 2 FGCU, who won last night's semifinal 3-2 in overtime against Lipscomb. The ASUN Championship Final will kickoff Saturday, Nov. 12th at 7 PM live on ESPN3.
No. 1 North Florida vs. No. 5 Jacksonville Semifinal Notes
- Jacksonville will play its first ASUN Championship Final match since 2008, when the Dolphins won the title in a 4-3 thriller over Campbell. The Dolphins own a 2-2 record in ASUN Championship Final matches.
- The Dolphins became just the fourth No. 5 seed to advance to the Championship Final, and the first since North Florida played in the 2013 Championship.
- Igor Ferreira scored his third goal of the season, and second game-winning tally. Tonight's goal was his first since a Sept. 24th game-winning goal against Lipscomb.
- Patrick Harding has been on fire in the 2016 ASUN Championship. After recording eight saves in the Quarterfinal against NJIT, he finished with seven saves tonight. His 15 total saves are the most in an ASUN Championship since 2010, and third-most in ASUN Championship history.
- The Ospreys held a 21-3 shot advantage in tonight's match. The 21 shots set a new season-high mark for the team. North Florida finishes the 2016 season with a 9-4-2 record.