Florida Tech Panthers Knock Off Barry Buccaneers For First Time In Three Years

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Melbourne High Grad McCarthy Scores twice

Kierra McCarthy (left No. 11) gets a celebratory hug from No. 24 Kristin Howe after scoring one of her two goals vs the Barry Buccaneers. (FIT image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech has consistently played close with the Buccaneers of Barry but in recent years the Panthers have been unable to get over the hump and secure a victory over the perennial Sunshine State Conference power.

That changed Wednesday night when the Panthers knocked off the Bucs behind a second half scoring explosion. It is the first win for Florida Tech over Barry since 2013 and the first in conference play since the 2011 season.

“I think this win is huge,” said head coach Dustin Smith.

“More importantly it’s the first conference game. It’s a home game where we defended our home field and played pretty well. Yes, defeating the three-time defending conference champion is huge.”

Dustin Smith
Dustin Smith

The opening 45 minutes was hotly contested, with neither team generating a great deal of offense. The best opportunity for either side came in the waning seconds of the stanza, when Aubri Williamson got behind the BU defense and delivered a powerful shot towards goal.

Unfortunately for FIT, Bucs’ goalkeeper Paula Forero was up to the task, fending off the attempt.

While Barry largely controlled possession in the opening half, the tables turned in the second period. The Panthers peppered the BU goal early and often to open the half before breaking through in the 54th minute.

Streaking down the pitch from the right wing, Mary Watson struck a cross directly into the chest of Eva Banton, who brought the ball down to her right foot and slotted it into the back of the goal.

The Bucs responded almost immediately as Sarah Wignall powered a shot into the left corner of the net in the 56th minute on a failed clear attempt by FIT.

Rather than get down on themselves for surrendering the lead so quickly, the Panthers got after it, dominating possession throughout the rest of the game.

Keira McCarthy
Keira McCarthy

It was the Keira McCarthy show to close out the contest. The Space Coast United product rocketed a shot past Forero to regain the lead for FIT and followed up with a header that narrowly snuck under the bar to give the Panthers some insurance heading to the final 17 minutes of the game.

The sophomore forward has picked up right where she left off from her freshman campaign, ranking second in the SSC with five goals early on.

“The hardest thing to find in our sport, men or women, is a natural goal scorer,” said Smith. “Keira is just that, she seems to find herself in the right spot at the right time. Again, it’s very difficult to find somebody like that and we’re very fortunate to have her.”

On each of McCarthy’s scores it was Williamson who set up the attack for the young striker. Primarily known as a goal scorer herself, the redshirt-senior is two clear for the conference lead in assists with five.

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“It’s a great combination with those two (Williamson and McCarthy),”

“Then we have a few more forward that we can bring off the bench as well. With Aubri being able to take players on, being back to full strength, getting into some dangerous positions and creating opportunities for Keira, I think it’s a heck of a tandem to have and she’s doing a great job.”

The Panthers jump right back into SSC play on Saturday, hitting the road for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff in St. Petersburg, Florida.