MSU soccer remains undefeated at home with draw to Missouri

Kristen Malebranche, a senior biochemistry major on the pre-med track, plays her role as defender during Saturday’s game between the Bulldogs and the Tigers where the teams tied 1-1.

The Mississippi State University Bulldogs faced the University of Missouri Tigers on their home field in Starkville on Saturday. The Bulldogs tied with the Tigers 1-1 in a double overtime.

A 3-4-3 formation set the Bulldogs up for a counter attacking game against the Tigers as they created four chances in the first half. However, a lack of quality in the final third led the Bulldogs to not having a goal to show for their positive play. 

James Armstrong, Mississippi State University head coach, said, tactically, he wanted his team to outnumber Missouri in the midfield, which the formation he used allowed. It paid off as the Bulldogs held the Tigers to a 1-1 draw after two periods of overtime.

“How Mizzou had played so far and how they played tonight, we wanted to make sure we outnumbered them in the central midfield,” Armstrong said. “That's where we thought we could get success. We felt that our wide players were going to have to do a lot of running, and our backs would have to be very physical, strong and aggressive.” 

Starting goalkeeper Maddy Anderson, a freshman from Seabrook, Texas, stood tall in the goal making two key saves for the Bulldogs.

Missouri would get on the scoreboard first as a dangerous ball was not cleared out of the Bulldogs' defensive third. As a result, the Tigers whipped in another cross, and Macy Trujilo got on the end of it, heading it past a diving Anderson for the first goal. Blythe Beldner was awarded the assist for her cross that created the chance.  

The Tigers were able to put consistent pressure on the backline of MSU with their defensive strategy. Missouri's goal was a result of the possession and skill that Missouri had in the first half. That lack of quality by the Bulldogs on the ball in the final third is what Armstrong said cost his team a win.  

“The game plan worked,” Armstrong said. “We just needed a little bit of final quality inside the box, or in and around the box in the final overtime period, and we might have nicked a goal at the end.” 

Both teams created chances to score as Missouri would finish with 14 shots and MSU with 11. Both teams scored very similar goals on the same end of the field and by the same motion. A header is what put Missouri ahead and what got MSU back into the game.  

The Bulldogs got back on level terms as KK Pavatt played a beautiful arching cross into the box, and Onyi Echegini, a sophomore forward from London, England, steered it home with her head and past the keeper in the 58th minute. The buildup play and finishing was marked by the finesse that the Bulldogs desperately needed in the first half. 

“It was a great cross honestly; it went straight to my head,” Echegini said. “It just bounced off my head, and it's gone. It's moments like this that have to be taken. From that moment upwards we just kept going, and we had the momentum. It’s unfortunate to not get the 'W,' but we fought for 110 minutes.”

There was a severe collision during the game as Anderson came out of her goal to block a shot and collided with a Missouri player. Anderson said she could not remember if she hit the player first or if the player hit her first, but she had to be helped off the field. 

Throughout the game though Anderson’s condition improved on the sidelines as she started to walk and put pressure on her leg after receiving medical treatment. Hannah Pimentel, a sophomore goalkeeper from Flowery Branch, Georgia, however, would come in and make key saves in goal. Anderson said the team has a next-player-up mentality. 

“She did really well when she stepped up,” Anderson said. “We always talk about the next player up and stepping up into that role. She definitely did that mentally and physically.”

In overtime, Missouri and MSU traded counter attacks that should have and could have resulted in goals, but the golden goal to win the match was not found. Armstrong said the team fought to the end, striving not for a tie but for a victory. 

“We felt like we had momentum going into overtime, so we were pushing for the win,” Armstrong said. “Obviously, we had another unbelievable crowd here tonight, and we wanted to give them the win. From that standpoint, we had in our mind to go out there and put our best foot forward to try and get the three points. Trying to get a tie was never in our minds.”

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