On a dark and cold Thursday night, No. 25 ranked Mississippi State University soccer fell to the No. 1 ranked University of Alabama by a score of 4-1.
After defeating the University of Mississippi, the Bulldogs were looking to challenge the top-ranked Alabama team, which has only one loss on the record this season.
MSU’s offense tried attacking early in the match’s first period with no success against a ferocious Alabama defense. Meanwhile, Alabama’s high-powered offense managed to get rolling early following a goal from Gianna Paul in the 10th minute.
In the 34th minute, MSU’s offense found a way to capitalize against the Crimson Tide’s defense. Sophomore Haley McWhirter scored, tying the game for the Bulldogs.
The first period’s high intensity resulted in a high number of foul calls. The Bulldogs had nine fouls with two yellow cards to close the period, while the Crimson Tide had six.
MSU’s defense held off Alabama’s offense for the remainder of the period. Goalkeeper Mac Titus, in her third consecutive start of the season, played an instrumental role in stopping the Crimson Tide, as she recorded a save in the period.
After the game, McWhirter spoke about how Titus has stepped up in the absence of injured junior goalkeeper Maddy Anderson.
“I mean, she’s done an unbelievable job coming in. And for Maddy (Anderson), I mean, she’s done the best we could ever ask her to do. I mean, I think she’s done great,” McWhirter said.
Going into the second period, the match was tied 1-1. Alabama dialed up their offense with a strong start to the period, taking three shots in the first five minutes. The Bulldogs survived the attacks, and Titus recorded another save in the process to keep the match tied.
After struggling with fouls before halftime, the Bulldogs limited their fouls to three in the second period, while Alabama had four, which included a yellow card. However, this effort was not enough to change the outcome.
In the 64th minute, the MSU defense allowed Alabama’s Riley Mattingly Parker to score the team's second goal. For the remainder of the match, Alabama’s offense continued their dominance, while defensively stopping all of the Bulldogs’ efforts to score. The Crimson Tide scored again in the 75th minute when Ashlynn Serepca found the goal, giving Alabama a 3-1 lead. In the 89th minute, Alabama’s Riley Tanner scored, delivering one last dagger to the Bulldogs' defense. The Bulldogs gave every effort to score in the second period, but they left empty-handed.
Following the loss, Bulldogs head coach James Armstrong discussed what his team learned playing against a top-ranked team.
“The team learned that we can compete with anybody in the country — Alabama, the number one team in the country — and they showed it tonight,” Armstrong said. “I think what we can learn is that if you’re not concentrating for a whole 90 minutes and you don’t have that quality for 90 minutes, a team such as Alabama can hurt you, you know, so lots of positives from tonight for sure.”
The Bulldogs 10-3-3 (4-3-1) will travel to face Vanderbilt University for their next match. The match is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. and will be streamed live on the SEC Network.