Soccer beats Tennessee Tech for OVC win

Lori Allen/The News Junior forward Pavlina Nepokojova fights for possession in a game against UT?Martin.
Lori Allen/The News Junior forward Pavlina Nepokojova fights for possession in a game against UT?Martin.

Lori Allen/The News
Junior forward Pavlina Nepokojova fights for possession in a game against UT?Martin.

Soccer earned its first conference win of the season against Tennessee Tech Sunday after losing at Belmont in a choatic final of minutes two days earlier.

Head Coach Beth Acreman said she was proud of the resiliency of the team, overcoming a loss to the Bruins with a win days later.

“The result against Belmont with such a controversial ending was definitely motivation for (the team) Sunday,” Acreman said.

The Racers fell behind Belmont in the 13th minute as the Bruins scored with a header off a corner kick.

“Set pieces are still an area (we need) to continue to work on,” Acreman said. “We have trained hard to clean them up, but it still is an issue for us.”

The Racers rallied before halftime as senior midfielder Natasha Merritt found freshman Lauren Frazier to tie the game 1-1.

The Racers continued their aggressive play and scored again as junior Julie Mooney found sophomore forward Megg Hudson in the 75th minute to give the Racers the go-ahead goal.

With the Racers leading 2-1, chaos occurred that cost the Racers their first OVC victory. Belmont played the ball up on a counterattack toward their forward, who fell after contact with a Murray State defender.

The play earned the Bruins a free kick. Belmont then had a player advantage as sophomore defender Halle Pinkham was given a red card and ejected from the game with two minutes remaining.

“I’m not sure how the official made his decision against Halle,” Acreman said. “With such little time remaining and to be given such a harsh decision, it was hard for our team to recover from it.”

With a free kick just outside the penalty box, the Bruins shot the ball under the Murray State defensive line and tied the score 2-2.

As time wound down, Belmont mounted one more attack and drew two Murray State yellow cards in the final minute.

With overtime looming, junior Pavlina Nepokojova was given a yellow card for delay of game and caused the clock to stop. With three seconds remaining, Belmont scored before the final buzzer went off. Acreman and the team said they did not think the ball was in before the buzzer.

“The clock ran out and the goal went in,” Acreman said. “An awful call and end to a great game.”

With the loss in the final minutes, the team used the situation as motivation for its game against Tennessee Tech.

Murray State came out aggressive on offense, taking nine shots in the first half. The scoring opened up in the fifth minute as Mooney’s shot hit off the goalpost, but senior Rebecca Bjorkvall was there to tap in the first goal.

The Racers doubled their lead two minutes later as Frazier crossed the ball into the middle of the box and found Mooney, who put it past the Golden Eagle goalkeeper for the 2-0 advantage.

Murray State kept up the aggressive play and in the 31st minute, Merritt placed a header into the lower right corner of the net for a 3-0 Racer advantage at halftime.

Tennessee Tech gained momentum in the second half with nine shots but couldn’t score, and the Racers left Cookeville with their first conference victory.

“We are really happy with our performance,” Acreman said. “Not only did we get three goals from three different people, but we also got the shutout.”

With the team sitting at 1-3 in the OVC, Murray State returns to Cutchin Field for a pair of conference games against SIU Edwardsville and conference leader Eastern Illinois this weekend.

“Every game is crucial for us, so we will be training hard this week to prepare,” Acreman said.

The team plays at 3 p.m. today against SIUE and then at 1 p.m. Sunday against Eastern Illinois.

 

Story by Tom Via, Staff Writer