WOW! Eastern Florida Women Reach National Soccer Final With Dramatic Overtime Victory
By Mark DeCotis, Eastern Florida State College // November 21, 2015
title game set tonight at 7 p.m. in melbourne
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — It was only fitting. Eastern Florida women’s soccer freshman Julia Hernandez’s header off a corner kick from classmate, close friend and fellow Spaniard Paula Astiazaran broke a 1-1 tie in the second overtime and sent the Titans to their second national final in four seasons on Friday night.
The 2-1 victory over defending national champion Monroe College came with 1 minute and 21 seconds remaining in the second 10-minute overtime and avenged Eastern Florida’s defeat to Monroe on penalty kicks in last year’s national semifinal.
The NJCAA Women’s Division I Soccer Championship final will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Titan Soccer Complex on the Melbourne Campus.
Eastern Florida, 17-0, the nation’s No. 1 team and the tournament’s No. 1 seed, plays third seed Iowa Central who defeated Butler Community College 2-0 in Friday’s second semifinal.
Eastern Florida lost 3-0 to Paradise Valley of Arizona in the 2012 final. The Titans lost in the first round in 2013.
Monroe broke out early on Friday as Nicole Rivera headed a feed from Bruna Taveras past Eastern Florida goalkeeper Steff Barreras just four minutes and 52 seconds into the game.
The Mustangs held the edge until Eastern Florida sophomore Nicole Broderick converted a feed from classmate Abbie Camargo with 8:17 to play in the first half.
From there things went back and forth, sometimes with style and grace and sometimes with guts and grit as the game veered from one of beauty to one of bruises.
That Monroe stayed in the game was credit to goalkeeper Jordan Wainwright who made four stunning saves over the course of the final 45 minutes.
The first overtime passed and all but 1 minute and 21 seconds of the second overtime before Eastern Florida earned a corner and the season-long-synergy between Astiazaran and Hernandez paid off.
“I knew I was going to score,” said a breathless Hernandez who was mobbed by her teammates following the goal.
“I told (teammate) Rosie (Lindo) in the warm up that I was going to score a corner kick and Paula and me always do the same corner kick.
“I knew it was going to come.
“It was hard,” added Hernandez who was the subject of hard marking.
“The center back did an amazing job. It was a very good battle between us.
“I was faster than them but they were taking care of me so good, moving, changing, talking to each other. It was so hard for me, every time I had one person with me.”
Astiazaran credited the goal in part to the time and effort she and Hernandez put into things.
“Sometimes we stay and practice because we connect with each other very well,” Astiazaran said.
“They were very compact on defense. We had to move faster with the ball. It was very hard to get the ball to the forwards.”
For Titans head coach Jeff Carr – and a large and vocal crowd – the ending was exhilarating.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a night where we gave up a goal in the first five minutes,” he said. ‘Then Nicole stepped in and had a huge goal and we battled and we dominated toward the end of regulation and definitely in the overtime.
“I didn’t know how much time was left. I actually looked – I had my list on my cell phone for the PKs (penalty kicks). I was thinking ‘OK, I’m going to get that out.’
“But Julia, Julia, from Paula to Julia. That was a battle. That was a very good team. They packed it back and just tried to counterattack. They did a good job.
“I really believed we were going to go to the national championship.”
Titans sophomore defender Helen Ramsey anchored the Titans defense that stepped up after the Monroe goal.
“I told the ladies we had to play with heart and that’s what we did,” she said. “We went out there and got the win we deserved. We played with our hearts.
“It means so much to me. Last year I didn’t get to play. I got hurt in the first game. It really hurt to lose in PKs.
“It just means so much to me. It’s an amazing feeling.”