There was little to complain about this week for fans of Florida Gulf Coast University athletics — even in defeat.
All FGCU teams, save for men’s soccer, posted victories and/or top finishes (and even that 3-1 home loss in men’s soccer had to feel like a moral victory).
Also last week, a couple of Collier County products made their season debuts for the Eagles.
Playing in front of just over 1,000 fans, the Eagles put up a valiant effort against the nation’s top-ranked team, Wake Forest, before losing their home opener.
O’Vonte Mullings scored his third goal in FGCU’s third game of the season as the Eagles cut a 2-0 deficit in half early in the second half. With FGCU (1-2-0) controlling play for a large portion of the second half, Wake Forest (3-0-0) converted a penalty shot in the 75th minute to put the game away.
The Eagles travel to Statesboro, Ga., on Friday and will look to hand Georgia Southern (2-0-1) its first loss of the season.
For the second straight week, the Eagles pulled off a win over a Power-5 school as they beat Michigan, 3-2, on Sunday to improve to 4-0-0 on the season.
“You would like to hope that your players’ mindsets don’t change from game to game, but our kids understand the importance and the opportunity that is in front of them when these teams are on our schedule,” said FGCU coach Jim Blankenship, whose team followed up its 4-2 win at Alabama on Aug. 24 by edging the Wolverines (3-3-0). “They understand that to be an NCAA tournament team, you have to have success in games like this.”
The Eagles drew a combined crowd of 1,200-plus during a two-game home stand that also included a 3-0 win over Niagara (2-2-0) on Friday.
Sophomore Zoey Spitzer, a graduate of Gulf Coast High School who sat out the first two games, came off the bench to contribute in both wins. An Atlantic Sun all-freshman team selection last season, Spitzer registered the first shot of her sophomore season against Michigan.
Senior Holly Fritz and junior Evdokia Popadinova both have four goals to lead FGCU this season. The Eagles, who have won eight straight ASUN regular-season championships, will try to make it 3-for-3 against Power 5 conference opponents when they visit Ohio State (3-2-0) on Friday.
Just as they did in last week’s season-opening Sunshine State Challenge, the Eagles took two out of three matches at the Lobo Classic in Albuquerque, N.M.
By winning seven of the 10 sets it played, FGCU won the event via tiebreaker.
The Eagles’ only loss — a 3-1 decision Friday night against New Mexico — was bookended around straight-set wins over New Mexico State on Friday afternoon and Eastern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.
FGCU will open its 2018 home slate inside Alico Arena when it hosts Albany on Friday night as part of the Homewood Suites/ FGCU Classic. The Eagles will take on the event’s other two participants Saturday — Western Illinois at 10:30 a.m. and West Virginia at 7 p.m.
The Homewood Suites/FGCU Classic will be the Eagles’ only home matches until the beginning of October.
FGCU senior Carley Lutzow dominated the women’s race in the season-opening FAU Invitational at South County Regional Park in Boca Raton. Lutzow won the 5 K with a time of 17:35.56 — a minute ahead of the second-place finisher.
Fellow senior Angela Cruz Gonzalez, a graduate of Immokalee High School, contributed to FGCU’s fifth-place finish. She posted the Eagles’ fourth-best time (20:42:44) — a significant improvement from her time (21:28.91) in the same event last year.
The Eagles won the men’s race for the second time in three years. Sophomore Lucas Kiprotich posted the Eagles’ fastest time (15:24.01) en route to his second-place finish.
FGCU will travel to the Bronx in New York for the Fordham Fiasco on Saturday. The race’s venue, Van Cortlandt Park, is also where the ASUN Championship will be held.