Fans got their first glimpse of this year’s Murray State women’s soccer team Sunday as the Racers fell to Western Kentucky 7-1 in their lone exhibition of the preseason.
“Obviously the result was nothing what we wanted it to go,” said the Racers’ new head coach Jeremy Groves. “We had two of the main people who were supposed to start out for the weekend in our defender spots, so we had to kind of throw a couple people back there.”
Despite the preseason loss, the Racers hope to build on their 6-10-1 record last season as they turn a new leaf for the program.
Fourteen players will return for the 2014-15 season, including eight starters from last year.
Among the experienced veterans Groves inherits this season is two-time All-OVC Julie Mooney. The senior scored a team-high seven goals and had a career-high seven assists last season to lead the Racers.
Murray State also returns sophomore standout Savannah Haberman, who set the Murray State single-season saves mark with 111, including a program and conference record 23 in the season finale versus Austin Peay State.
The team traveled to Bowling Green, Ky., Sunday to test its summer progress and prepare for the upcoming season.
The exhibition did not prove to be a contest, however, as the Lady Toppers took control early. Western Kentucky’s Shayna Dheel struck first as she took a cross from the right side and finished the goal from five feet out only 2:44 into the game.
Dheel quickly tacked on another goal in the 19th minute off a rebound of a shot by Iris Dunn.
The Racers showed signs of life in the 24th minute, however, as veteran Mooney blasted the ball into the back of the net from 12 yards out to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
Despite their best efforts, the Racers could not hold onto the momentum heading into the half as the Lady Toppers’ Lauren Moats increased the lead to 3-1 off a pass from Christine Gordon right before the whistle.
After halftime, Western Kentucky continued to apply the pressure as they scored four more goals in the second half, including back-to-back scores only 47 seconds apart by Kelly Phipps.
Murray State tallied 13 shots with six of those being on goal while Western Kentucky took 19 shots and managed to place 10 on net.
Haberman spent 45 minutes in goal for the Racers while allowing three goals and making two saves.
Promising freshman keeper Shelby Haworth allowed four goals and one save in just more than 43 minutes of action.
“We plan to move forward here and figure out what we need and what needs to be worked on and things like that,” Groves said.
“We actually showed pretty well,” he said. “We scored a goal, we had probably four to five legitimately good chances to score other than the goal that we scored, so it was very positive. It was a good gauge, instead of playing each other in a scrimmage at home, it’s good to get on the road and test ourselves out against a decent team like Western.”
The first real test for the Racers arrives today at 3 p.m. as they welcome Arkansas State to Cutchin Field for the first official game of the season.
Arkansas State returns two All-Conference selections from last season while being picked to finish sixth in the Sun Belt Conference preseason polls.
“Opening up at home is going to be tremendous,” Groves said. “We’re looking forward to hopefully getting a big crowd there and people kind of being rowdy a little bit and supporting us. These girls deserve some support.”
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer