Fast starts for first-year Florida Gulf Coast programs

How about this for your first-year Division I program's inaugural weekend: You open with a 10-0 and then turn around two days later and win, 3-2, in overtime to capture your first tournament.

That's what happened to the Florida Gulf Coast women who beat Alabama State, 10-0, to kick off their inaugural season before 1,026 fans at the Embassy Suites Kick-Off Classic last Friday night in Ft. Myers, Fla.

Two days later, FGCU beat FIU, 3-2, on an overtime goal by freshman Lindsay Haw, the tournament MVP, to capture the tournament title.

The FGCU men's team -- the first from-scratch Division I men's program to be launched since 2000 -- didn't do too badly itself. It won the opening game of its inaugural season by defeating Coastal Carolina, 3-2,  at the CCU/Adidas Invitational.

Junior transfer Courtney Eppleman (Jacksonville) let FGCU with five goals against Alabama State.

FGCU started three upperclasswomen, all transfers, and one sophomore, Amber McCall, who originally signed to play for powerhouse Florida State. The seven freshman starters included three players from Calgary, Alberta.

"We played with discipline and passion; we put pressure on them early that led eight goals in the first period," Eagles women's coach Jim Blankenship said. "With every match brings a new challenge, but this was a good way to open the season."

What made remarkable the men's victory over Coastal so remarkable was that the Eagles came back from conceding a goal four minutes into their first game. FGCU got goals from Jonathan Koshko, Collin Gill and Anthony Forde.

"This was a big night for the program," said men's coach Bob Butehorn. "We have high expectations for FGCU soccer and we have a long way to go, but tonight was exciting for everyone involved."

All 11 starters were freshmen and hail from Florida.

The Eagles lost for the first time during their inaugural season, falling to Furman, 3-0, Sunday in the second day of action at the CCU/Adidas Invitational.

The men open at home on Friday against UNLV.

The men's and women's teams play in the Atlantic Sun. Also playing in the A-Sun is USC Upstate, which climbs from Division II.

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