Women’s soccer has a sign hanging in their locker room that asks them everyday, “Do you believe?”
They started off last week riding their biggest high of the season. It was the conference quarterfinals game, and Florida Tech shut out Rollins 3-0.
“The girls, in my opinion, played almost flawlessly,” said Head Coach Dustin Smith. “They were so happy and ecstatic, and they were so exhausted after the game. But it was one of those good feelings.”
The Panthers were hoping to take that moment with them into the semi-finals on Nov. 6 against Barry, their toughest competition. The game came hand-in-hand with some memories.
Two years ago FIT lost to Barry in the same round, on the same field, in PKs.
The déjà vu reminds Julia Kantor, senior goalkeeper, what it was like playing there with Fidgi Haig.
“I can vividly remember him literally standing on the sideline yelling at us and encouraging us,” Kantor said. “I think that now it’s in our hands. It’s just more motivation and a good thing to keep in our hearts.”
The Panthers lost the rematch 2-1. But the season was not a failed one. Kantor played hard every game, knowing it was her senior year and wanting to make every game memorable.
She earned the top spot in the conference for shutouts with her relentless attitude. She says she could never have reached that achievement without her defense behind her.
“If it wasn’t for them,” Kantor said, “I’d be dying back there. They’re like my wall and we have each other’s backs. Always.”
Women’s soccer rallied against adversity this season, facing the loss of two key players to injury. For Smith and his coaching staff, he said the response was easy: simply plug in the next person. They have built a deep bench just for that reason.
Smith said his team responded extremely well to the changing circumstances.
“We’ve put in some players in certain positions and whether they’re a freshman or a senior, it didn’t matter and they just went about their business,” Smith said. “I think that is a lot of credit to the team’s chemistry and again, believing in each other. And the girls are the ones who create that.”
Smith had been assistant coach under Haig for five years. In those five years, the team went to the NCAA tournament three times and once even made it to the final four. Smith said he’s happy that the team made it as far as they did, but he also fully expected them to.
“It is a lot different being the head coach,” said Dustin. “But I have no problem giving all the credit in the world to Fidgi for helping even me prepare for these moments.”