NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Evening up the all-time series between the two teams to 10-10 and securing the fifth-seed in the ASUN Conference tournament, Jacksonville University exploded for a 3-0 first half Saturday to take down Lipscomb University 3-1 in the regular season finale.
"The first thing I want to say is how proud we are as a staff of the effort of this team tonight," said Head Coach Mauricio Ruiz. "They played a man down for a significant portion of the game and bent but didn't break. I couldn't have been happier with how they stuck together with the pressure on."
Not much happened offensively in the early going; Lipscomb got two shots off in the first 11 minutes and JU had only four shots in the first half. But the Dolphins made those shots count, scoring on three of the four attempts.
Sam Gardner was first to draw blood, scoring his first goal of the season on a header off a spectacular cross from Stephan Spicer. His header gave JU a 1-0 lead with 60 minutes left in the game. Igor Ferreira came close to scoring his fourth of the year on a second header shot in the 18th minute, but the Bison keeper just managed to save his attempt.
Jacksonville again found its mark about 10 minutes after the first goal when Diego Diaz, briefly uncovered, managed to strike from about 15 yards out in the top right corner. That gave JU a 2-0 lead in the 25th minute.
The final offensive outburst came just five minutes later when Kai Bennett came across a loose ball with the goalie out of the box. He easily placed the ball into an empty net, giving Jacksonville a 3-0 lead in the 30th minute.
Lipscomb had two shots on goal in the first half, but both were saved by Patrick Harding. The junior keeper stopped the first Bison shot about 16 minutes in, and saved another following a Bison set piece in the 31st minute.
The game got slightly more challenging in the 35th minute however; a hard foul led to a Lipscomb student-athlete receiving a yellow card and a Dolphin earning a red card, which meant Jacksonville would have to play a man down for the final 54 minutes. Coach Ruiz switched to a defensive mindset, and though Lipscomb managed to score in the 51st minute on a header by Austin Eager, JU mostly bent but didn't break. The Dolphins allowed just the one goal in 15 second-half shots by the Bisons, leaving Nashville with a 3-1 victory and a higher slot than Lipscomb in the ASUN tournament.
The Dolphins will head home for a few days before playing as the "road team" in a neutral site game in DeLand, Fla., on Nov. 3 against fourth-seed University of North Florida. The postseason #RiverCityRumble will be a rematch of a 2-1 decision that went the Ospreys' way at Southern Oak Stadium on Oct. 25. Stay tuned to JUDolphins.com over the coming week for a detailed preview of the upcoming playoff showdown between these two crosstown rivals.
"It may be the start of the ASUN postseason, but prep for this game is mostly the same in that we played them just a few days ago," said Ruiz. "The guys are hungry to play anyone in a playoff game, but especially UNF. We look forward to this River City Rumble next Friday."