Combining the typical instability of the final day of soccer competitions with the inherent peculiarity of the state of Florida gave KSU’s soccer team a wide range of possibilities as they traveled to Jacksonville to finish the regular season.
To qualify for the six-team Atlantic Sun playoffs, all KSU needed to do was earn a single point from the final weekend. Every possibility from No. 2 down to missing the postseason was still in play when games kicked off Friday. A game- winning Shannon Driscoll goal against Jacksonville on Friday sealed the playoffs for the Owls and put them in solid position to have a legitimate shot at a No. 2 seed if they could pull off a win on Sunday against North Florida.
It was a somewhat simple task for KSU head coach Rob King and the Owls: beat a team that had only won two games in conference so far. Instead, KSU squandered that opportunity with a 4-1 loss to the Ospreys on Sunday afternoon.
UNF’s Jill Holdsworth opened the scoring in the 48th minute, followed quickly by Lauren Hopfensperger making it 2-0 just two minutes later. Katrina Frost brought the Owls within one with a 70th minute finish, but that was as close the visitors would come. UNF would go on to add insurance goals from Alexis Bredeau and Thea Linkfield to finish off KSU, giving the underdog a slight consolation for just missing out on the playoffs.
“Kennesaw is a very good team,” said Linda Hamilton, UNF’s head coach, to unfospreys.com. “In conference play, anything can happen on any given day and our team definitely showed up to play.”
Sunday’s loss places KSU in the No. 3 seed, two points shy of earning the valuable first-round bye. The bracket is quite kind to the Owls, though. The Owls wouldn’t meet No. 1 Florida Gulf Coast until the finals, and the early-round opponents they would face, Lipscomb and Jacksonville, are both teams Rob King’s squad has defeated this season.
Having to play in the first round was not what the Owls were hoping for, but the team can take solace in the match being at home. No. 6 Lipscomb—in their first ever A-Sun playoff appearance—will be the opponent on Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, where KSU is unbeaten since midway through September.
“We are excited about being able to host,” King said to ksuowls.com. “We worked hard to get to this point and we are looking forward to that game. “Stopping Ellen Lundy will be key for the Owls to advance from the first round. The 6-foot- 1 forward ranks second in the A-Sun in goals with 14, despite being just a freshman. She scored the lone Lipscomb goal in KSU’s 2-1 victory to open the conference slate, and her battle with organized KSU defense will go a long way in deciding who advances to the semifinal.
The winner of Saturday’s match will advance to play in the conference semifinal against No. 2 Jacksonville on Friday, November 8th.