The Murray State women’s soccer team has bounced back from early season losses and is now on a three game winning streak heading into OVC play.
This streak includes two wins over the past weekend, thanks in large part to Julie Mooney’s four goals, as they defeated Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis 3-1 Sept. 19 and then turned right around to beat Northern Kentucky 4-1 Sunday.
Head Coach Jeremy Groves was pleased with the outcome of the weekend’s games.
“We set out to get two games and we did that and we did it in style,” Groves said. “Coming off the road for three weeks and coming home and scoring some goals is what we needed to put ourselves on the right foot going into OVC play.”
The Racers came into the Friday showdown with IUPUI riding high off a huge win against Saint Louis University the previous weekend. Murray State fed off that momentum early as they were attacking constantly on the offensive end.
Mooney first found the back of the net off a Taylor Stevens assist in the 37th minute to give her team the one point cushion heading into the half.
After IUPUI answered early in the second with a goal of their own, Mooney responded in the 61st minute with an assist from Stevens once again.
To complete her hat trick and finish off any hopes of an IUPUI comeback, Mooney tapped in the last goal of the game in the 83rd minute with an assist by Pavlina Nepokojova.
When asked about her goals, Mooney was quick to give credit to her teammates.
“It wasn’t really a personal goal of mine but it was exciting,” Mooney said. “I have to give it to a lot of my teammates, like (Nepokojova) and Taylor (Stevens), they had some really good crosses and I was just there to tap it in to be honest. It was just good to score for the team and get a win.”
Her coach was much quicker to praise Mooney’s efforts.
“She’s not a kid that talks much; she leads by actions,” Groves said. “She’s always working hard, she always tries in the running that we do, she’s always one of the leaders in that but in terms of vocal leadership she is not going to say too much.
“She does the talking on the field. We have a couple of other captains who are better at talking than she is so her actions give a thousand words.”
The Racers ended the game with a 17-5 total shot advantage, indicating their dominance over the Jaguars.
While the offense was not as dependent on Mooney in the second game of the weekend, it was every bit as potent.
Four different Racers scored on the afternoon as Murray State improved its winning streak to three, defeating Northern Kentucky 4-1 in the process.
Murray State took control of the game early as the Racers scored their first point only 17 minutes into the game.
Defender Bronagh Kerins found herself one on one with the keeper and chipped it right over her to score the first point.
Northern showed some fight in the 29th minute to tie the game at one, but Mooney responded quickly to score an unassisted goal only two minutes later to push the lead back out to one and score her fourth goal of the weekend.
In the 60th minute of the second half, Taylor Richerson scored one more for the Racers off an assist from Mooney and then Harriet Withers scored unassisted eight minutes later for the final goal of the match.
Groves said he knew that his team has been capable of this kind of success all season long.
“This is the thing, we’ve always been working hard and doing the right things,” Groves said. “All it was was a confidence thing. Once we started finding the net I knew that we’d keep doing it.
“Hopefully that lasts over the next period of games here. I think right now we’re kind of full of confidence so I hope that’s going to bleed over into the next 10 games.”
Mooney agreed that the Racers are finally hitting their stride.
“I thought we played really well,” Mooney said. “We’re getting better every week which is good because we’re peaking right around OVC play. Our defense and midfield did really well and we were able to finish up top too so it was just a good weekend overall.”
The recent success of the women’s soccer team did not come a moment too soon as it has finished its nonconference schedule and looks forward to conference play.
The Racers welcome Tennessee Tech University and Jacksonville State to Cutchin Field this weekend in two OVC showdowns.
Murray State’s three game winning streak has improved the team’s mindset at this point of the season, Groves said.
“The recent success is huge,” Groves said. “It gives our forwards some confidence that they can actually hit the back of the net. It’s going to be two pretty similar games this weekend.
“Friday should be a little bit of an easier game if there is an easy game and Sunday will be a pretty tough test because I think Jacksonville has improved here over the last couple years. I think it should be a good game.”
Catch the Racers in action as they take on Tennessee Tech at home today at 3 p.m.
Story by Peter Northcutt, Staff writer