Kayla Park (’25) headed the tars temporary equalizer after a corner / Courtesy of Mike Watters – Rollins College Sports
It was close, but it wasn’t meant to be. The football lady Tars fell 2-1 in extra time against Flagler, the nation’s number 1 football team, on an exciting football afternoon at Winter Park. Despite the opponent’s résumé, Rollins held his own throughout the game.
Head coach Alicia Schuck, who is in her eleventh year at the top of the tars, said: “It gives us a great experience playing against some of the top players and top teams in the country. These games are valuable and the reason we are planning them is because if you win you will feel like you are on top of the world and if you don’t we will just keep holding on to things. ”
This is the second close loss that Rollins has suffered against the ranked opponents; No. 2 Mississippi State won by the same result in a highly competitive game a week earlier.
In the first half of the game, Rollins had more possession, but Flagler had better chances. The guests drew the first blood after a series of awkward tackles did not remove the danger from the penalty area. The Tars gave up some good chances before both teams went 1-0 into halftime.
The resuscitated Tars put more pressure on after the break, and their efforts were rewarded in the 55th minute when Kayla Park (’25) headed a Bailey Tran (’23) corner into the far post.
“It was an insane moment, I didn’t even watch the ball go in because it knocked out of my ear. I looked back, saw the network, and went crazy. It’s surreal. I couldn’t think of a better college first goal, ”said Park.
A native of Lisbon, Conn. immediately turned and waved at the camera. When the game was over, her phone buzzed with texts and videos of the goal of friends and family back home while her mother watched from the stands at Barker Family Stadium.
In extra time, both teams went for the golden goal without hesitation. Flagler found it after the referee’s questionable decision to miss an offside position.
Schuck said she was proud of her players, especially Park: “She should be super proud of herself. In general, it is difficult to score goals, but especially against the number 1 in the country. I’m sure she’s probably disappointed that we didn’t win, but it’s nice to crack a smile in situations like this. “
Park’s smile came from her teammates, especially those on the sidelines.
“Our bank, they are an important factor. They’re just loud and that really motivates you, ”said Park. “You do a good deal, they are screaming for you and you just want to go ahead and get the adrenaline pumping. Even with a bad game, we still have our backs free. “
A 1-3 start to the season is not what the Tars are used to, but this team is young and is still trying to reach its potential. Park itself is the best example. In the pre-season, the newcomer started on the right full-back, then rose from the top to the front before settling in the middle midfield.
While the players are looking for synergies, Coach Schuck takes care of tactical adaptability and the changing culture.
“We’re working on putting the pieces together out in the field, but we’re also working on putting the pieces together as a group. I think it’s going to be a challenge for the whole season – bringing the team together on and off the field – but we’ll work on it, ”said Schuck.
Due to COVID-19, many new players, old players and transfers haven’t seen much game time. Park does not allow herself to be distracted from her goals.
“With COVID, it’s just uncertainty. Players are in and out, people get sick or injured, you do whatever you have to do and that’s what I want to do: just make my team win, ”said Park.
By far the greatest challenge of the pandemic is recruitment. Most of Park’s cohort were recruited from Zoom. In normal years, Schuck and her staff saw them play four or five times before signing up, but this year they didn’t meet some of the players until they got on campus.
Day by day, the coaches gain more and more insight into what the new recruits can and cannot do. Even so, the tars are still in good hands.
“We recruit to make sure our program just keeps getting better. This is a special group of freshmen and new players, ”said Schuck.
Park described the relationship between starters and other team members as symbiotic. Both push each other to get better. When games like the one against Flagler are added, the performance is no surprise.
Park said, “It was tough, but we worked extra in training to get this overtime. we did the sprints, we put the work into it. There is something special here; I have never experienced something like that.”
Despite the hurdles, Schuck strives for nationalities like every year and thus sets a high standard for the program.
Rollins has been reigning Conference Champion since fall 2019, and Schuck sees it as the Tars’ duty to defend the crown, despite their current record loss during the provisional spring season and the slow start to the current one.
“It’s always been about that and we will always do our best to win a championship here at Rollins and reach the NCAAs,” said Schuck.
The last time the Tars had a loss record, they did just that the following year. You will work extra hard to make sure history repeats itself this time.