The road woes of the Murray State women’s soccer team continued Sept. 12 as it lost 1-0 to Middle Tennessee State then bounced back Sunday to defeat Saint Louis 1-0 on its own turf to end the losing streak.
The Racers’ tour of the U.S. had not panned out to be the vacation they had hoped for heading into the weekend as they lost all three away games thus far.
The frustration was evident in Head Coach Jeremy Groves, but he knew that it is just the nature of the game.
“I don’t know any other sport in the country where you can play well and still lose,” Groves said. “At MTSU that is what we did; we played extremely well, we created a bunch of chances again, we just couldn’t score.”
The Racers’ showdown with Middle Tennessee looked promising for the Racers at first as Julie Mooney had a shot on goal within the first 30 seconds of play. That would be the only shot on goal for the Racers for the rest of the half, however, as both teams managed only one a piece the entire half.
The second half continued to be much of the same as the teams were deadlocked. MTSU had the slight edge in total shots at 10-8 and led the shots on goal advantage 4-3. Despite a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks, the Racers still could not find the back of the net in regulation. The Blue Raiders dominated the overtime period, however, as they took four shots to the Racers’ zero.
With 1:17 left in the first overtime, MTSU’s Angie Lai scored the game winning goal as she blasted a shot from the corner of the 18 yard box off a pass from Grace Summers.
Despite the loss, Groves still walked away from the game encouraged by his team.
“It’s a tough thing, ya’ know,” Groves said. “I couldn’t be disappointed or angry or upset or in how we approached the game and how we played with the energy and effort. Again, it’s just about taking care of the little details. It’s kind of heart-wrenching after playing hard for 95 minutes and then we give up a soft goal at the end. You just have to be positive with them and tell them to keep doing what they’re doing.”
Senior forward Pavlina Nepokojova was far from content with the outcome as well.
“We were very disappointed as a team because I think we played really well,” Nepokojova said. “We pressed them a lot, we created chances, we hit a couple corners, but unfortunately we didn’t score any of those, so we were disappointed. We are still confident, though, because of the way that we played. We just have to get ready for the next game on Sunday.”
The Racers took on Saint Louis Sunday for the final game of their five game road stretch. The travels seemed to show in the Racers’ legs in the first half as they were outshot by the Billikens 7-2 in the opening frame. Fortunately, the Racers escaped the first half still tied at zero with SLU.
“We didn’t come out in the first half and play very well,” Groves said. “I thought we were a little bit down and that’s probably the overtime loss showing a little bit in the first half on Sunday. We kind of got into them a little bit at halftime and then we came out and gave a really good account of ourselves after the half.”
The second half went favorably for the Racers as they gained the advantage in shots on goal. The game was still tied at zero for much of the game, however, as neither team could manage a goal. The hero of the game, Nepokojova, finally broke through the Billiken defense in the 79th minute to score a corner goal and seal the 1-0 victory for the Racers.
Nepokojova was quick to share the glory with her team following the victory.
“It felt nice to score a goal, of course, but I was really happy that we actually scored first that we were winning 1-0,” Nepokojova said. “Our team did really well in the second half so it was great.”
By defeating Saint Louis Sunday, Murray State snapped a four game losing streak and injected life back into the program.
“I think (the win) was huge, obviously,” Groves said. “It was our fifth away game in a row. We’ve been close in a couple of others, losing one nil and so forth, so just for them to get over the mental hump of losing and turn one around and win a game was huge for us.”
The Racers will return to their home field this Friday to battle Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. After a five game road streak, the homecoming is much needed for the team.
“We’re really looking forward to being home,” Groves said. “There’s no more traveling. I don’t know how many miles we’ve done but we’ve been up to Ohio, we went down to Florida, Tennessee, Missouri; we’ve been all over the place the last couple of weeks. It’s going to be good to sleep in our own beds and we’ll get an extra day to prepare which is good. We’re really looking forward to playing here.”
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer