SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo women’s soccer team was perfectly positioned to take early control of the Sunshine State Conference as they held a 2-1 lead over visiting Rollins with just a half-hour to play, but the Lions could not hold onto the lead as they surrendered two unanswered goals to the Tars, falling 3-2 at a packed University Field on Wednesday evening.
The first setback in conference play saw Saint Leo (2-1-1, 1-1 SSC) strike early as forward Jasmine Johnson linked up on a pass from Chrissy Darwell and Pia Soesemann in the 16th minute. After some good passing from inside the end line, Johnson found the ball at her foot and blasted a shot from point-blank range past a diving Rollins' keeper.
As a sign of what was to unfold, Rollins’ (6-1-1, 1-0 SSC) answer came in short order as Rachel Jakubowski knotted the game just two minutes later after receiving a pass from Chelsea Brady. Brady curled a bending ball into the box where it was nodded home by a rising, unmarked Jakubowski. Saint Leo keeper Cristina Coca dove toward it, got both hands on it, but pushed it off the underside of the crossbar as she couldn’t keep it out.
After passing through intermission with the match even at one-goal each, the Lions again took the lead in the 58th minute when Hannah Beard steered past Rollins goalie Michelle Dillingham and slotted it into a wide-open net. Beard picked up the pass, in-stride, from a 30-yard laser off the foot of Aija Bent-Trinder. The sophomore defender picked up the ball on the defensive side of the center-line, took two touches and lofted it to Beard, who did the rest.
Saint Leo could not hold the lead as Tars’ freshman forward Elise Spearing came off the bench immediately following the Saint Leo goal and managed to find the back of the net just seven minutes later. Spearing took advantage of a failed defensive clearance which fell to her foot. She fired it across the keeper and into the lower-left corner.
Ninth-ranked Rollins took advantage of the momentum gained from the 65th-minute equalizer and continued to attack toward goal, finally breaking through in the 73rd. Chelsea Brady spun a ball in from the corner that the Lion defenders failed to clear in front of the goal. Instead, Charlotte Murell picked up the sharp cross and tucked it home past Coca for the go-ahead tally.
The Lions, battling the injury bug all night, pushed for one last golden opportunity, but the Rollins' defense spread the field in the final 18 minutes to secure the victory.
The Lions will have a short time to regroup and recover from the setback as they take to University Field less than 48 hours from tonight’s final whistle and face Clearwater Christian College on Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. EDT.