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Sixth-Seeded Southeastern Takes Care of Truett McConnell to Advance to Round of 16
LAKELAND, Fla. – For the second consecutive season, the Southeastern University women’s soccer team is heading to Orange Beach, Alabama. The sixth-seeded Fire handled the Truett McConnell University Bears 4-0 in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round to advance to the Round of 16.
“Truett McConnell is a good side. They created some problems for us but we like that because that’s what makes us better. It was a good representation of two top teams in the NAIA and a good representation of college soccer,” shared head coach Randy Belli.
The trio of junior forward Uchenna Kanu, graduate forward Yulie Lopez, and graduate midfielder Gabriella DiDio combined to score or assist on all four Fire goals. DiDio herself played a part in each score by SEU, totaling a goal and three assists on the night.
“Over the course of the season, the three of us have gotten closer and closer. The chemistry off the field has carried over on the field and it’s nice to see that,” commented DiDio.
After both teams were even at five shots apiece through the first 15 minutes of play, Southeastern broke through in the 19th minute. Kanu received a corner kick from DiDio, who then rocketed it towards the frame. Lopez was in the neighborhood to finish the ball far post.
Less than two minutes later, the Fire took a 2-0 lead off the foot of Kanu. Lopez dished the ball to DiDio on the right wing, who crossed it into the box. The Abia, Nigeria deposited the ball into the back of the net with a leaping header.
DiDio got in on the action in the 36th minute. The Toronto, Canada native blasted one from the distance off the post. Lopez recovered the miss and sent it back to DiDio, who slotted it home from 20 yards out.
The Fire took a 3-0 lead over the Bears into the half. Southeastern outshot Truett McConnell on frame 8-3 in the first 45 minutes of action.
Kanu netted her second score of the contest in the 54th minute, after taking the pass from DiDio near the top of the 18 and turning across her body to rifle the ball in far post.
With her five-point performance, Kanu set a new NAIA single-season points record with 122 points on the season.
Freshman goalkeeper Holly Eddins recorded five of her eight saves in the second half. Eddins posted her eighth full-90 shutout of the year.
The Fire will face a familiar foe in their first final site match. SEU takes on 11th-seeded John Brown on Tuesday November 27 at 6:30 p.m. The Fire defeated the Golden Eagles 3-1 in the regular season.