Florida Tech’s McCarthy Hat Trick Powers Panthers to Opening-Round Win, Barry Up Next

By  //  November 4, 2015

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Just in case she hadn’t already, freshman Keira McCarthy officially welcomed herself to the Sunshine State Conference on Tuesday. (Image by Amanda Stratford Photography)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Just in case she hadn’t already, freshman Keira McCarthy officially welcomed herself to the Sunshine State Conference on Tuesday.

The forward registered her first career hat trick in her first career postseason action to help Florida Tech avenge an earlier loss to Rollins and send the Panthers into Friday’s SSC Tournament semifinal round with a 3-0 victory at Barker Family Stadium.

“It’s crazy,” she said after running her season goal total to 11 in the win.

“We were so hyped to come out for this game. Every game is important, but this one especially. We know that we’re playing for Fidgi (Haig) and wanted to come out strong. We wanted revenge in this one after losing before, and I think we got it.”

Keira McCarthy

Keira McCarthy

Rollins nearly opened the scoring in the eighth minute after a Paxton Sickler free kick struck off the cross bar.

From there, it was all Panthers. Goalkeeper Julia Kantor needed just one save in recording her league-leading ninth shutout of the year as Florida Tech picked up its first postseason ‘W’ since 2013.

Dustin Smith

Dustin Smith

“They just battle,” head coach Dustin Smith said of his team’s defensive effort.

“They grind it out, they work hard. We may not be the fastest, we may not be the tallest, but we work. Having Jules back there to keep them organized as well, unbelievable.”

McCarthy put the Panthers on the board first in the 24th minute. Drifting towards the inline on the left side of the field, she was somehow able to beat Rollins’ goalkeeper Mary Spring for the tough-angle score to give Florida Tech the early cushion.

Roughly six minutes later McCarthy struck again, finishing fellow freshman Madeleine Keenan’s volley into the box to put the Panthers up 2-0 midway through the first half.

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Still up 2-0 in the 64th minute, but with the Tars knocking on the door, Florida Tech erased any thoughts of a potential comeback as Taylor Eller located McCarthy on a beautiful ball in front of the net to complete the hat trick.

The Melbourne High School product has now scored a combined five goals in the Panthers’ two latest wins, making herself a legitimate frontrunner for SSC Freshman of the Year honors.

“What an amazing job she did,” Smith said about McCarthy.

“I didn’t even realize that it was the first hat trick, but just an unbelievable effort. It couldn’t have come at a better time and hopefully she’s still got a few more in the bag that she can pull out in our next game as we continue to move forward.”

Ciera Misner nearly tacked on a fourth goal in the 67th minute for good measure, but the drilled free kick attempt deflected off the crossbar. Nevertheless, Florida Tech was able to notch its first clean sheet against a Rollins squad since back in 2010.

Next up, the Panthers will head down south for a showdown with tourney host Barry this Friday.

Game time is set for 7 p.m. ET from Miami Shores, Florida.


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