WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. –– There's a first time for everything. For the Sailfish, another first was checked off the list as Palm Beach Atlantic won the SELC Southeast Division outright, beating Florida Gulf Coast 9-8 in a winner-take-all matchup.
In a rivalry that needs no storyline, the play on the field quickly matched the intensity in the air, as both teams clawed for goals and possessions. The Eagles struck first, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before the 'Fish netted their first at 11:58 of the second quarter. Florida Gulf Coast led 4-2 at halftime.
Palm Beach Atlantic began the third quarter with the carry-over of an extra-man opportunity and scored right away. Goals by Christian Corbin (Bowie, Md./St. Mary's-Annapolis) at 14:37 and Payne McIntosh (West Palm Beach, Fla./Denison Univ.) at 14:00 tied the game. It was part of a 5-1 third quarter run for the Sailfish, who took a 7-5 lead into the final frame.
Florida Gulf Coast notched two quick goals to tie the game at seven apiece, before both teams traded goals. First it was the 'Fish, who scored on another Corbin goal (one of a team-leading five points) at 9:55, followed by an Eagles answer at 8:03.
The game stayed scoreless until 3:36, when first team All-American Greg Swanson (Boca Raton, Fla./Boca Raton) scored from Corbin on an extra-man opportunity for the deciding goal.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
For the first time in program history, the game ball was awarded to the entire team during the postgame huddle as a result of their performance against a gritty Eagles unit. As is tradition, the game ball was then awarded to Thomas East (Atlanta, Ga./Whitefield Academy), who finished with one ground ball and a broken arm while fighting for a Sailfish possession in the second half.
The Sailfish are the outright champions of the SELC Southeast Division for the first time in program history. PBA shared the division crown in 2009 and 2012.
Palm Beach Atlantic (10-2) has now won eight games in a row, dating back to a win over No. 9 Siena Heights on March 8. Over that time, the Sailfish have allowed just 6.375 goals per game on average.
Palm Beach Atlantic honored four student-athletes for their contributions to the Sailfish family on Saturday night: senior Rob Aycock (Greensboro, N.C./Walter Hines Page), graduate student Matt Dillon (Jupiter, Fla./Univ. of Florida), graduate student Mike Mastracchio (Jupiter, Fla./St. Leo Univ.), and senior Terence Ouma (Nairobi, Kenya/Rocky Bayou Christian).
Following Saturday's 9-8 victory over Florida Gulf Coast, Palm Beach Atlantic now leads the all-time series 5-4. The series began in 2009 with three straight Sailfish victories. Prior to Saturday, the Eagles had won three straight contests of their own, including the 2015 SELC Tournament championship game.
WHAT'S ON TAP
It's now on to the postseason for Palm Beach Atlantic, as they Sailfish will play in the SELC Tournament next weekend. The action begins with the quarterfinals on Friday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. as the 'Fish play No. 15 Reinhardt University at Greater Atlanta Christian School (Norcross, Ga.). If PBA wins, they'll advance to the semifinals on Saturday, followed by the championship game on Sunday. The semifinals and finals are both played at Northview High School in Johns Creek, Ga. Follow the 'Fish on Twitter for live score updates.