DELAND, Fla. – The storied rivalry between Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida added another page Friday when the Dolphins defeated the Ospreys 2-1 in the opening game of the ASUN Conference men's soccer tournament.
"Our team is built on depth," said Head Coach Mauricio Ruiz. "Players stepped up at the absence of others and did a great job. Eli has been ready all season for his opportunity and his team had a lot of belief in him. And [Selemani] has been close to scoring many times this year, so we're happy that he was able to get his first goal at JU to win the game for us."
Knowing that Lasley was making his first collegiate appearance, North Florida played very aggressively offensively throughout the game, attempting 25 shots. Of those 25, only five managed to make it on-goal thanks to stellar play by the Dolphin backline, which compressed to help deflect the Osprey attack. Of those five shots on goal, only one made it past Lasley, a header goal by UNF's Micah Smoak in the 12th minute that gave North Florida a 1-0 lead.
Jacksonville wouldn't trail for long. Just one minute and 15 seconds later Igor Ferreira, the leading goal scorer for the Dolphins, tied up the game 1-1. The redshirt sophomore midfielder received a cross from Kai Bennett, who in turn got the pass from Sam Gardner. Both Bennett and Gardner received an assist as Ferreira deftly placed his shot dead center in the net. Ferreira's fourth goal of the year was the only shot JU attempted in the first half.
Neither team had a decent shot at scoring for the rest of the period, and at the half the #RiverCityRumble was knotted 1-1.
Jacksonville shifted gears in the second half, emphasizing offense. The Dolphins attempted the first shot of the period, a heater by Steven Saunders in the 49th minute that trailed wide, and continued pushing the ball up field as often as possible. North Florida also turned it up a notch, attempting 10 shots in a 20-minute span. But the Dolphin defense continued to hold, deflecting many of the Ospreys' opportunities harmlessly.
The next JU opportunity came in the 75th minute, when Gardner received the ball in the center of the box off a header deflection by Cam Grassmyer. Gardner lined up his shot and fired away, but it drifted just inches above the crossbar.
The game changed for good when Baruani, subbed in for Dolphin co-captain Ignazio Muccilli just eight minutes earlier, sprinted 40 yards up the field after receiving the ball. The junior forward, chased by several UNF defenders, played the sniper role, expertly shooting past the Osprey keeper's outstretched foot with just 12 minutes left on the clock. JU took the lead 2-1, and would largely keep UNF from even coming close to equalizing.
One dangerous moment came in the 89th minute, when North Florida's Adrian Nunez got free near the box and fired a shot that danced between the Dolphin defenders. But Lasley was prepared, catching the ball in his chest. The redshirt freshman keeper celebrated briefly with a single bounce of the ball and a defiant yell before kicking the ball clear. The clock expired, and JU defeated UNF 2-1.
The Dolphins continue their quest to #LeaveALegacy Sunday at 1 p.m., when they again play in DeLand, Fla.; this time facing off against top-seeded Stetson. The game will be a rematch of a 0-0 tie on Oct. 20.