Markou's hat trick sends Monroe to semifinals

Markou's hat trick sends Monroe to semifinals

By Michael Parsons, Eastern Florida State College

BREVARD COUNTY, FL  - Before the seventh-seeded Monroe Community College Tribunes took the field to play No. 2 Butler, freshman midfielder Eleni Markou had a phone conversation with her mother.

"She was like, 'I want you to score a hat trick and the third goal will be for me,'" said Markou, who is from Kastoria, Greece.

Well, whatever mom says goes, right?

Markou got her hat trick and the Tribunes upset the Grizzlies 3-1 Wednesday at the Titan Soccer Complex on the Melbourne campus of Eastern Florida State College to advance to the national tournament semifinals.

Monroe (14-3-2) will play on Friday against an opponent yet to be determined.

"That's what she's been doing all year for us," Tribunes coach Sal Galvano said. "She plays on the Greek National Team and that international experience she brings is second to none.

"What can I say? She did an incredible job today. That's what we expect of her and that's what she's done."

Markou's first two goals came in the first half, one on a header off a corner kick from Bianey Serrano, the other on a penalty kick after Iowa Western was called for a handball in the box.

Butler's Colleen Howland would quickly answer Markou's second goal with one of her own off an assist from Taylor Spencer and it would stay that way until Markou picked up her third goal less than two minutes into the second half when Butler was unable to clear the ball from its own end. Gabriella Hallnan had the assist.

With a two-goal lead, the Tribunes relied on their defense and the strong play in goal from Caitie Broderick to close it out.

"We got our nerves out (Tuesday against Cape Fear) which helped," Galvano said. "We came ready to play. We knew what we needed to do. We stuck to our game plan. We didn't let their game plan affect us. We let them adjust to us."

For Butler coach Adam Hunter, the game boiled down to one simple thing.

"We didn't stop their best player," he said. "We made two critical errors, leaving her free on the corner kick and on the third goal with the missed pass back and she punished us for it.

"She made us pay for our mistakes. She's too good a player to give her those opportunities."

Aside from her three goals, Markou was happy with the way she and her teammates were able to play against a very tough Butler team and praised her coaching staff for helping the team improve both mentally and physically.

"We (had) a great performance today," she said. "We didn't play our game, but (we had) that kind of winner's passion. We need to prove that we are the greatest team here in the tournament.

"We had a very difficult season, but right now we are where we're supposed to (be). We have had great improvement, and I'm very glad that I'm able to help us to achieve our goals."

After her scoring her third goal, Markou jumped in the air pumped her fist wildly, a celebration that was meant for her team … and her mom.

"That's why I was so happy and excited about that," she said.