MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee netted a pair of second half goals to break a scoreless first 45 minutes to earn its fourth-straight win and even its overall record by defeating FIU 2-0 Sunday afternoon in Sun Belt soccer action at Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
The Blue Raiders completed their season's longest homestand, four matches, a perfect 4-0 and surrendered just one goal in the quartet of games. Sunday's shutout was senior goalkeeper Rebecca Cushing's 15th of her career, moving her within two of the all-time school record. She made five saves, as Middle Tennessee (7-7, 4-2 SBC) knocked the Panthers from the unbeaten conference ranks for the second-straight year.
After a first half in which neither team was able to find the back of the net, the Blue Raiders broke through at 56:41 with an own goal to claim a 1-0 advantage. Freshman Melisa Erturk started the play by feeding a through ball to junior Paige Goeglein in the center of the field. Goeglein split two defenders and fired a shot at FIU (7-6-1, 4-1-1 SBC) netminder Kaitlyn Savage. Savage stopped the shot but allowed a rebound, which ricocheted off a Panther defender into the back of the net. The FIU player was still marking Goeglein inside the six-yard box as the Blue Raider made a hard charge to follow-up her attempt.
It is the first own goal credited in MT's favor since it tallied one against UALR Oct. 8, 2004, in a 10-1 home victory.
The Blue Raiders then clinched the match with their second score at 75:51 when redshirt junior Regina Thomas, with a defender all over her back, turned over her left shoulder and fired a right-footed shot low just inside the left post to give Middle Tennessee the 2-0 cushion.
In the first half, both teams had several chances at finding the back of the net, Senior Shan Jones nearly gave the Blue Raiders a lead at 18:44 when her attempt from 25 yards out banked off the crossbar. Panther forward Chelsea Leiva was a threat up top all day, placing two of her team-high tying three shots on goal only to be denied by Cushing.
FIU appeared to have the early momentum in the second half, taking three of the period's opening four attempts, including a header by Sara Stewart on an April Perry corner kick that sailed just over the crossbar.
Perry, the Panthers' set-piece specialist, lined up for a free kick with two minutes remaining. Her first attempt bounced off the Middle Tennessee wall right back to her. Then, after receiving the ball again, she placed it high over the Blue Raider net in the final solid FIU opportunity.
Middle Tennessee will return to action when it travels to Louisiana next weekend, starting with a 7 p.m. Friday match in Lafayette, La., against the Ragin' Cajuns. The Blue Raiders will then face ULM at 1 p.m. Sunday in Monroe, La., before returning home for the final regular-season match in Murfreesboro Oct. 20 against South Alabama.