Moccasin Defender Scores Twice to Lift Florida Southern Past Eckerd, 3-2
ST. PETERSBURG – Ashley Holmes made his mark last year as an All-South Region center back. This year, he’s still playing in the middle of the Moccasin defense but has added goal scoring to an already impressive resume. With Holmes scoring twice on Saturday, and Zach Hofstetter scoring once, Florida Southern was able to hold off a late rally by Eckerd and open Sunshine State Conference play with a 3-2 win over the Tritons.
In the early stages of Saturday night’s match, Holmes was one of the stars of what looked like a defensive struggle in the making. The teams combined for just seven first-half shots (four by Eckerd, three by FSC), and a corner kick by Hofstetter provided the only scoring. In the 37th minute, the senior midfielder sent a perfectly placed ball toward the far post that an unmarked Holmes headed into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
“Ashley is more than just a great center back,” said FSC head coach Hugh Seyfarth, “he’s an All-American type player who you can put anywhere on the field and he’s going to produce. He’s so good in the air he always gives us a chance to score in those situations.”
Goal number two was also scored by Holmes when the junior defender converted a penalty kick in the 55th minute to give the Moccasins (4-1, 1-0) a 2-0 lead. It was the second time in the last three games the junior defender scored two goals after he’d scored just three in his first two seasons.
Holmes also came up big on the defensive end while the game was still scoreless. A dangerous free kick by Anthony Arico in the 14th minute was headed out by Holmes at the back post, and not long after he also blocked a shot taken by Sawyer Frank inside the box. A follow-up attempt by Matt Duffy sailed high and the Mocs had again dodged one of several close calls on the night.
They weren’t able to dodge all of them, however, as Eckerd mounted a come-back in the second half after falling behind 2-0.
Shortly after the penalty kick by Holmes, the Tritons (4-2, 0-1) got on the scoreboard with an own goal by the Moccasins. Ben Donovan provided the impetus with a free kick into the box that was headed into the net by a Florida Southern defender.
The Tritons then made a mistake that was equally costly, and in the end, perhaps more devastating. After saving a shot by David Fletcher in the 74th minute, Eckerd goalkeeper Toni Virtanen was called for a hand ball when he inadvertently carried the ball out of the box on his drop-kick. It gave the Mocs a free kick at the top of the box and Hofstetter blasted it home for his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Eckerd answered again though by also scoring off a free kick in the 88th minute. Daniel Lopez hit the shot for the Tritons by curling it into the upper right corner of the net all the way from the left side of the field, approximately 25 yards away. The Tritons then got two more shots in the final 90 seconds before the Moccasins were able to run out the clock.
“We need to get smarter and see things all the way out,” said Seyfarth. “We can’t give away free chances like that because good teams will take advantage of them, which is exactly what happened.”
The Moccasins nearly gave up another goal in the closing minutes, but Holmes again prevented disaster when he broke up a counter-attack after the Mocs lost possession on the other end of the field. His defensive stop inside the box allowed FSC to re-group before Arico launched a shot that carried harmlessly out of bounds in the 84th minute.
“We played very poorly at certain stages of the game tonight, but the mark of a good team is that you can overcome that and still get the result.”
Eckerd ended up out-shooting Florida Southern, 13-12, and had a 13-7 edge in corner kicks. The Moccasin defense turned away the Tritons time and time again however, with Holmes and Logan Albritton both blocking shots inside the box at different points in the game.
Florida Southern will be on the road again for its next match, taking on Palm Beach Atlantic on Tuesday in West Palm Beach. Game time is 4:00 p.m.