Top-20 Soccer Moments at Barnett Field, #4 (October 21, 2008)

Top-20 Soccer Moments at Barnett Field, #4 (October 21, 2008)

In 2007, under second-year head coach Ben Strawbridge, the Florida Southern women's soccer team had a breakthrough season that saw them go 12-7-1, doubling their win total from the previous year while reaching double-digit wins for the first time in team history. In a cruel ending, though, the Moccasins were denied their first trip to the NCAA Tournament when, despite being ranked high enough to receive an at-large bid, they were bumped by an automatic qualifier from the Gulf South Conference that was ranked below them. The following year, however, the Moccasins did get that trip to NCAA postseason play, and they all but secured it on October 21, 2008, with a 1-0 win over Tampa.

The Moccasins returned seven starters from the 2007 team and among them were six of the top seven scorers. They did graduate Amy Clampitt-Holsenbeck, the program's first All-American and SSC Defensive Player-of-the-Year, and record-setting goalkeeper Sarah Furr, but they plugged the holes with another strong recruiting class, and had an even better season in 2008. It really did not start that way though, as Florida Southern was just 2-3 after five games with losses to Armstrong Atlantic, Montevallo, and West Florida, three teams that played in the NCAA Tournament in 2007. No one knew when it happened, but a 3-1 loss at No. 5 West Florida on September 14 would be Florida Southern's last loss for a very long time.

On September 19, the Mocs began turning their season around with a 2-1 home win over Division I Liberty University behind goals by Princess Haley and Alex Hoover. Then it was off to Fort Lauderdale for a neutral-site game two days later against another NCAA Tournament team, Dowling College from New York. A late goal by Erin Hopkins gave Florida Southern a 3-2 victory before shutout wins over Palm Beach Atlantic and Barry followed. A 5-1 win at Flagler, featuring a hat trick by Hoover, ended September with the Mocs riding a five-game winning streak. They weren't even halfway finished.

Wins six, seven, eight, and nine all came in Sunshine State Conference games, the last two of which came over two more teams that had played in the NCAA Tournament the previous season, Nova Southeastern and Saint Leo. Next up for Florida Southern was a date with defending national champion Tampa, a team they had yet to beat in 12 tries.

The Moccasins took an 11-3 overall record into that game and were 5-0 in the SSC while Tampa was 10-4 overall, 4-0 in conference play. Earlier in the day, Florida Southern had moved into the top-25 for the first time in team history, and as the final home game of the season, it was also senior night for the Moccasins. As it turned out, the only goal of the match was scored by Haley, a sophomore forward who two nights earlier had scored in overtime to give the Mocs their win over Saint Leo. This time, Haley scored in the 20th minute on a shot from inside the six-yard box. She was assisted by the same teammates who set up her winning goal over the Lions, Linda Hoglund and Erin Hopkins.

Florida Southern made that goal stand up the rest of the night, but it was far from easy. Freshman goalkeeper Martina Tangen Billing made what was then a career-high eight saves in her best game of the season. The most impressive came in the 69th minute following a wild scramble in front of the goal after a corner kick. Tampa's Samantha Kay ripped a shot from the far right side of the box that Tangen Billing barely had time to react to, but got a hand on it to push the ball out of danger.

In the 77th minute, Tangen Billing again came up big for the Moccasins, slowing a shot taken by Brittney Evans from close range, which gave defender Kristen Vollmer enough time for a sliding stop on the goal line that cleared the ball… only to have it go right to Kay. Her immediate follow-up had the makings of a game-tying goal, but Tangen Billing made another spectacular play by streaking across the front of the net to make the save.

It was a glorious night for the entire Moccasin defense, led by Vollmer, who seemed to bear the brunt of Tampa's attack. The sophomore defender never broke, turning the Spartans away time and time again. Ashlie Haas and Lexie Bottomley did their part too, and Renee Heacock proved to be the closer for the Mocs, twice clearing the ball in the final 30 seconds as Tampa pushed for an equalizer that never came.

The win capped a grueling five-day stretch by the Moccasins that saw them win three games over the top three teams in the SSC standings from the previous season, all of which advanced to the NCAA Tournament. All three of those teams were also in the NCAA South Region rankings at the time, and the win over regional No. 3 Tampa extended the Mocs' winning streak to 10 games while allowing them to tie the school record of 12 wins in a season, which had been set one year earlier.

Florida Southern's winning streak reached 11 games with a 4-2 victory at Lynn before it was finally stopped by Rollins in the regular season finale. The Mocs were ultimately awarded the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament in their first trip to the NCAA postseason.

#20 on the Countdown: October 24, 1958
#19 on the Countdown: September 16, 1999
#18 on the Countdown: September 25, 1980
#17 on the Countdown: October 26, 2013
#16 on the Countdown: September 25, 1978

#15 on the Countdown: October 22, 1988
#14 on the Countdown: September 14, 2003
#13 on the Countdown: November 2, 1963
#12 on the Countdown: September 30, 2009
#11 on the Countdown: September 18, 1973

#10 on the Countdown: October 23, 2010
#9 on the Countdown: September 28, 1999
#8 on the Countdown: October 10, 2015
#7 on the Countdown: October 30, 2012
#6 on the Countdown: October 25, 1997

#5 on the Countdown: October 27, 2011