Cowbells rang and fans cheered as the Mississippi sun beat down on the ladies of the Mississippi State University soccer team while they stepped onto the field for the start of Sunday's match. The Bulldogs would soon reign victorious with a final score of 2-0. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette put up a strong defensive effort against the Bulldogs, but it was not enough to prevent a maroon and white triumph.
The last time these two teams faced one another was earlier this year in February, when the Bulldogs took down the Ragin' Cajuns 3-1.
Within the first 15 minutes of the game, both teams saw opportunities to score. However, defenders from both sides of the field were doing their job to protect their goals. Bulldog goalkeeper Maddy Anderson, a sophomore from Seabrook, Texas, held the Ragin' Cajuns back during the first half by completing two saves.
Finally, with under three minutes left in the first half, junior midfielder Onyi Echegini from London, England, pushed the ball past the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's goalkeeper to score off a free kick for the Bulldogs and put them up 1-0.
"That felt awesome," Echegini shared post-game. "Usually, I'm not really the one to take free kicks, but I felt super confident, so I just stepped up and hit it and it went in."
This serves as Echegini's first goal of the season, putting her at 10 career goals at MSU. Echegini scored two goals during the previous matchup against Louisiana, putting nearly half of her career goals being scored against them.
The second half of the match continued on with the same theme as the first: shot availability from both sides of the field, but all being blocked by the opposing team's defensive efforts. Louisiana took one shot during the second half, while MSU took eight, all but one of which went off-target or were denied by the Ragin' Cajun defense.
With under 10 minutes left in the game, senior forward Hailey Farrington-Bentil pushed past Louisiana's defense to score for the Bulldogs, putting them up 2-0. It was her second shot of the night, and it carried the Bulldogs to the end with a two-point win over Louisiana.
"In practice, we've been working on going down the line instead of cutting it back early," Farrington-Bentil said. "So I guess, this whole game, I made a decision to challenge myself to do that. So, I just tried it and I didn't see anybody in front of me and the goal was open and I could shoot, so I shot and it went in."
It is Farrington-Bentil's senior season with MSU soccer, and she shared that her goal is to leave her younger teammates with a better understanding of things she wishes she would have done better.
"On the field, my motto this year is 'It's never too late to be great,'" the senior forward shared. "So, I'm just trying to be a better me everyday."
Head Coach James Armstrong said in the post-game interview he was proud of the team's confidence going into this match after facing a loss to Lipscomb University last Thursday.
"We just said to the girls, 'The belief is still there from the coaching staff,'" Armstrong commented about their conversation after the Lipscomb game. "When we looked to the girls in training the day after, the belief was still there with them."
The Bulldogs will have another game at home Thursday, with a matchup against Arizona State University at 7 p.m.