It was not all sunshine and daisies for the Murray State women’s soccer team this past weekend as they traveled to Florida.
The team lost both of its games down south, losing a heartbreaker to Florida International 1-0 on Friday and then was edged out by Florida Gulf Coast 4-0 on Sunday.
The first game of the weekend was evenly matched as both teams accumulated eight total shots between the two of them with none finding their mark.
The Panthers did have a 4-0 advantage in shots on goal during the first half, indicating that they controlled the tempo for the most part. In the second half, the Racers won the shot on goal advantage 3-2 but was hurt by a simple defensive mistake in the waning minutes of the second half.
Florida International’s Scarlett Montoya fired in a dangerous cross from ten yards out that was connected by Johanna Volz to sneak the ball past Racer keeper Shelby Haworth for the game’s lone goal. The Racers gave a last ditch effort in the concluding 10 minutes of the game with three scoring opportunities, none closer than Julie Mooney’s shot with 38 seconds to go that bounced off the bar and was cleared by the keeper.
Murray State Head Coach Jeremy Groves was disappointed with the losses, but proud of his team’s effort.
“It was a pretty even game both ways,” Groves said. “I thought we defended pretty well, ya know, we really didn’t get going until about the last ten minutes of the game when we had a penalty appeal turned down which I thought was a penalty for us and then we also hit the bar. They didn’t really create a lot going forward.”
The Racers made the short trip across the state on Sunday to play Florida Gulf Coast in what would be their toughest competition yet this season. The game was very evenly matched for most of the first half until the 36th minute when FGCU’s Tabby Tindell scored the game’s first goal on an assist from Sarah Lowicki. The Racers still had hope heading into the locker room as they were only down 3-2 in the shots on goal category.
However, a foul given in the 67th minute of the second half gave the Eagles a penalty kick opportunity that they would capitalize on to increase the lead to 2-0. The third FGCU goal of the game came only three minutes later off the foot of Tindell for her second goal of the game. In the 73rd minute, the Eages would score the final point of the game by setting up Paulina Speckmaier to increase the lead to 4-0.
Groves noted the weather situation as a disadvantage to his team on Sunday, but knows his team can learn from these losses.
“There was a bunch of weather rolling in so we tried to change the formation,” Groves said. “If it got to seven minutes the result would have stood, so we tried to chase a goal and at that point they took advantage of that and hit us on the counterattack three times and scored.”
Senior Bronagh Kerins led Murray State on Sunday with three total shots and one shot on goal.
“We created a lot of chances like we usually do during all the games,” Kerins said. “We were pretty good at attacking and we did really well, we were really solid. We just had a few mistakes in the back line and soccer is a game of mistakes so we just messed up on a few of those.
“We kept our shape, we really worked on a lot of things, we created chances and unfortunately we just didn’t get to finish them.”
The Racers now move to 1-4 on the season with many of their losses coming from winnable games. Groves attributes their early record to inconsistency.
“We’re doing it in spurts now which is probably why the results aren’t going our way,” Groves said. “For twenty minutes we’ll be playing well and doing the things we’re supposed to and then for ten or fifteen minutes we’ll kind of revert back to our old ways.
“It was definitely a positive trip, though. We got a lot of things accomplished. We’re continuing to get better defensively and on Friday we played really, really well.”
Even if the team did not get the result they wanted on the field, the Florida trip might prove to be invaluable later on the season. The team spent four or five days constantly surrounded by their teammates, whether eating, sleeping, or traveling.
“We spent so much time together,” Kerins said. “We’re around each other all the time, we’re at the airport together, we’re in the hotel together. It’s very important to have everyone bonding and creating that unity on the team. The trip to Florida was really beneficial and I think we’ve gelled a lot more and that will help with the unity of the team.”
The Racers will have another shot to improve its record as the women travel to Murfreesboro to take on Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. Friday.
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer