The men’s soccer team has been focusing on improving set pieces this season, practicing them before every game, and that extra work paid off on Sep. 23 against Saint Leo with Sam Sawyer’s goal securing a 3-2 overtime victory at Rick Stottler Field.
One-hundred minutes into the game, Christian Stewart took a free kick after being tripped just outside the box. Stewart’s strong boot led to a header right over the hands of Lions goalkeeper James White.
“I knew where he was going to put it and I scrambled and got my head on it,” Sawyer said. “That is a great feeling, but the main thing is coming away with three points.”
Interestingly, the Panthers knocked off Saint Leo in the same minute in last year’s Sunshine State Conference semifinal match.
Stewart not only had the assist to win the game, but jumped the Panthers to an early lead in the first half.
Trey Collins took a strong shot that the goalkeeper deflected, but Stewart hustled keeping the play living and ultimately scoring his first goal of the season.
Collins added to the lead in the second half after being two defenders to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage.
“It was a different look for us up front tonight, but it ended up working out quite well,” Florida Tech head coach Robin Chan said. “We pushed Trey up higher and he had one of his best games he’s had for us.”
After the goal, Saint, Leo didn’t go away quietly, scoring two goals to force overtime in the closing minutes of the match.
“I give credit to Saint Leo, they never quit, they always push,” Chan said. “I thought overall we deserved it, we did enough to win the game.”
Both schools have a history of tight matches and well-played games, and Wednesday was no difference.
With the Panthers walking away with the win and three points, they are now 3-0-1 on the season and 1-0-1 in the Sunshine State Conference.
The Panthers had a rough schedule after facing Rollins on Sep. 26, with a loss of 4-3, and upcoming home games at the time of this printing Palm Beach Atlantic and Lynn University.
“This period for us is probably, on paper, the most challenging period,” Chan said. “It will be really important for us to recover and get our legs back under us and get ready for another tough contest Saturday night.”