PENSACOLA — Valdosta State Soccer earned their first Gulf South Conference championship with victory over North Alabama.
Prior to Sunday afternoon’s Conference Championship game, the Lions of North Alabama entered the match with seven straight shutout victories. The Valdosta State soccer team ended that stretch on Sunday afternoon in Pensacola, Fla. with two goals in the first half and another in the second to defeat UNA 3-0 and claim VSU’s first ever GSC Championship title.
Valdosta State wasted no time taking the lead, as Zahimara Fantauzzi capitalized on a cross from Maegen Doyle and struck from the left side of the 18-yard box to bury her third goal of the season. The score for Fantauzzi, which came in the fourth minute of the match, was the third of the season for the senior and helped set the tone early for the red and black.
Later in the 1st, Lauren Ingram picked the perfect time to connect for her first career goal when she blasted a shot over the head of UNA keeper Rachel Beninati from beyond the 18-yard box at the 32:03 mark. The career day continued for Ingram in the 77th minute of the second half, when Ingram guided a pass from Abbi Edwards into an open net to give VSU a 3-0 lead. The insurance goal late in the frame was more than enough for the Blazer defense, who posted their sixth shutout of the season.
“Everybody dreams about being that impact player,” said Ingram after being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player following the win. “This being one of my first years as a starter, it just felt really great to be able to make an impact out there and score two goals for my team today.”
The victory improved the Blazers to 11-6-2 overall and earned the team an automatic spot in the upcoming South Region Tournament. UNA fell to 14-3-1 following the defeat and will await the final South Region Rankings to learn their fate heading into the NCAA Regionals. Prior to Sunday’s match, Valdosta State represented the No. 10 seed in the South Region rankings, while North Alabama entered the championship match as the No. 3 seed in the regional rankings.
“One of my own personal goals this year has been to keep things going as long as possible for these 12 seniors,” stated first year Head Coach Rebecca Nolin. “These girls have been on-board from the get go, but after that 0-3 start to the season, it was just a matter of reeling it back in and reminding them that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We want to keep it going.”
Joining Ingram on the All-Tournament team were forward Abbi Edwards, defender Shelby Jennings, and keeper Olivia Mills, who earned her 26th career shutout in Sunday’s victory.
The Blazers will enjoy the win before anxiously awaiting Monday’s 7:00 p.m. selection show. The event will air live via webcast and can be viewed HERE.