The soccer team opened conference play with a pair of losses at home against Southeast Missouri and UT Martin this past weekend.
Head Coach Beth Acreman said the team played its best games of the year even though the results weren’t what they hoped.
“I’m pleased with the effort the girls put in,” Acreman said. “They gave their all in back-to-back games and I think we just need to clean up some details.”
In the OVC opener against SEMO, the Racers played a balanced game. While the Redhawks attempted more shots in the first half, the teams each placed four shots on the goalkeepers.
Just before halftime, the Racers committed a foul that would lead to the game-winning goal. Off a free kick, the Redhawks got the ball inside the six-yard box with the ball getting past freshman goalkeeper Savannah Haberman with six seconds left before halftime.
“I think our defense held really strong,” Acreman said. “I was happy to see them shut (SEMO) down because we have been getting scored on pretty early in games. Unfortunately, giving up a goal right before half was not what we wanted.”
In the second half, the Racers became the aggressors, tallying six shots with the majority coming in the final 10 minutes.
The Racers almost scored a game-tying goal in the 86th minute as senior midfielder Shauna Wicker put the ball close to the goal line, but the referee signaled the ball didn’t go in.
“For me it was a funny angle but I felt like when the girls reacted the way they did that it went in,” Acreman said. “It’s hard to say it didn’t, but I didn’t see it. It would have been amazing to tie it up and I think the girls deserved to tie it up.”
Wicker showed her senior leadership when discussing the potential game-tying goal.
“It happens, and I wanted the goal,” Wicker said. “Sometimes its just not meant to be. Sometimes you can blame it on a ref, but it’s just a shame that it happened there because it could have tied the game.”
The Racers earned a few more scoring chances, but the Racers lost their OVC opener 1-0. The team then hosted two-time defending OVC champion UT Martin on Cutchin Field.
Playing in the pouring rain Sunday, the Racers battled just like they did in their opener, but fell short once again.
Like their first game, it was a set piece that would get the opposing team on the scoreboard first as UT Martin scored in the 24th minute on a header.
“We know (defending set pieces) has been a problem for us and we just need to clean it up every game,” Acreman said.
The Racers responded and almost tied the game, but senior midfielder Tasha Merritt’s header went wide of the UTM net. Although the Racers would control the final 10 minutes of the first half, they would go into the locker room trailing 1-0.
In the second half the Racers and Skyhawks controlled the ball equally and attempted eight shots each.
In the 64th minute, the Skyhawks passed a ball over the top of the Racers’ back line and doubled their lead, 2-0.
The Racers battled from behind to get on the scoreboard with five minutes remaining.
Sophomore Megg Hudson found Julie Mooney to cut the lead in half with her fourth goal of the season.
“Anytime (Mooney) has a chance to get behind the back line, it’s a 100 percent chance she is going to score a goal,” Acreman said.
The Racers had a few more chances but could not tie the game and dropped to 0-2 in conference play.
The Racers will go on the road for the first time in conference play, taking on Belmont and Tennessee Tech this weekend.
“We are 0-2 in conference and we need to get it together but the girls are committed and ready,” Acreman said.
The Racers face off against Belmont today at 5 p.m. and then travel to Tennessee Tech for a 2 p.m. game Sunday.
Story by Tom Via, Staff Writer