A Southeastern Conference soccer brawl took place in the misty rain on Sunday in Starkville, Mississippi where the Bulldogs took on Louisiana State University, beating the Tigers 2-1.
The Bulldogs were 1-0-2 coming into Sunday's game. They had just beaten the University of Mississippi in a Magnolia Cup victory the week prior, and the Bulldogs carried that momentum into Sunday's game against LSU. Only 8:13 into the first half, sophomore Onyi Echegini from London, England scored the first goal for Mississippi State University off of an assist from midfielder Birna Johannsdottir. The shot sailed off the hands of the LSU goalie, flew over her head and rolled into the net in a theatrical first score for the Bulldogs. Echegini said the first goal helped fire the team up and allowed them to get things going.
"I feel like from that moment onward we had the momentum going forward," Echegini said. "We fought until the last second."
LSU was held to only two shot attempts in the first half, one of which looked to even the score out for the Tigers but was saved by MSU goalkeeper Maddy Anderson. The freshman from Seabrook, Texas worked hard for the Bulldogs with five saves, two of which came in the last 12 minutes of the game. Head Coach James Armstrong gave high praise to Anderson for her efforts in Sunday's game and said she is someone who has really stepped up for the team.
"Maddie is a freshman; it's easy to forget that," Armstrong said. "She plays with so much more seniority than what she has. She's a calming presence on the backline, and she came up big with saves. But what some people don't realize is how good she is coming off her line and cleaning up balls in behind, grabbing crosses, punching crosses, distribution and game management. She's phenomenal, and she's had a great first four games so far. It's somebody that we are excited about in their career and is somebody that's really stepped up."
Like the Bulldogs did in the first half, LSU followed in the second, scoring within the first 10 minutes and tying the game up 1-1. After five shot attempts and 32 minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs found the back of the net when Monigo Karnley scored off an assist from Hailey Farrington-Bentil. That was Karnley's second goal of the season, and she said she was just dedicated to fighting for her teammates.
"To be honest, I just wanted to go out and fight for these girls," Karnley said. "It was a team effort, and I am very honored to be the one to put the ball in the back of the net. But I felt like everyone did their part.
The Tigers tried to follow up the Bulldogs' late score in the second half with one of their own. With 1:26 left in the game, LSU Tiger Meghan Johnson scored a goal, but an offside penalty was called on the Tigers. The goal was negated along with the Tigers' hopes of prolonging the game. Coach Armstrong said they trained for moments like that against LSU and was glad his team did a great job of executing when they needed it.
"We worked on that during the week, and once again the girls did a great job of executing when the moment mattered," Armstrong said. "It was a scenario we knew we could face. And thankfully, the linesman got it right, and the girls did their job."
The Bulldogs face Texas A&M on Friday in College Station, a match-up that Coach Armstrong thinks will be formidable.
"They are organized and well-coached. They are going to be a real test for us, but every game in the SEC is hard," Armstrong said. "We will enjoy going to College Station and spending some time together, and we will be organized and ready to look at what threats they may pose. But more importantly, we will look at what we might be able to do to cause them some problems."