Murray State soccer Head Coach Jeremy Groves had a Homecoming of his own last weekend as his former team, Morehead State, came to Cutchin Field Friday afternoon.
The Eagles could have used Groves on their sideline as they limped away with a 5-0 defeat, fueled in large part by midfielder Julie Mooney’s second hat trick of the season. After his team trounced the defending OVC champions, Groves had mixed emotions.
“(Morehead State Head Coach) Warren Lipka was the first person when he was at (the University of Kentucky) to give me an opportunity to coach on his staff,” Groves said. “Not that he felt that bad, obviously he doesn’t like losing, but I felt a little bad to beat him so badly. He took it well, though. I’m sure he was angry and upset but he just said ‘Hey, thanks for kicking our backsides,’ at the end of the game, which is typical Warren. I’m sure if we play them again they are going to be ready to play us.”
The onslaught started early as Mooney caught a pass from forward Pavlina Nepokojova and quickly fired a powerful shot from just outside the box into the lower corner of the goal for an early 1-0 lead. The Racers continued to apply pressure in the first half until Nepokojova was fouled in the penalty box to set up Mooney’s second goal of the season from a penalty kick in as many attempts.
Coming out of the half, Mooney wasted little time in securing her hat trick as she took the ball from almost midfield, dribbled it through traffic and struck from almost the same spot as her first goal. Mooney singlehandedly gave the Racers a three point cushion.
Later in the half, Harriet Withers and Bronagh Kerins each scored two minutes apart to build an insurmountable lead to overcome Morehead State.
“I don’t think we expected the result to end up like it did,” Groves said. “It was just one of those days when we were on and we were good and kind of everything we hit went in. It was a huge result and I think it sent a shock wave through the conference which was massive. It was just a really good performance from everyone.”
Groves wasn’t the only one who was surprised at the score, as sophomore midfielder Taylor Richerson said the team was not expecting it either.
“We knew that it was going to be a tough game because they won the OVC last year,” Richerson said. “I think we were all kind of surprised that the score was what it was, too. We thought it would be a closer game, but we just started scoring and got on a roll.”
In the second game of the weekend, Murray State defeated the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 2-0 for its seventh straight home victory.
The Colonels, who are 3-11 on the season, were dominated from start to finish Sunday afternoon as they only managed four shots all day with none beating goalkeeper Shelby Haworth.
Kerins got things started in the 23rd minute for the Racers when she made sense of a mad scramble in the box and kicked the ball past the keeper.
Richerson tacked on the second goal of the game off an assist from Taylor Stevens in the 43rd minute to increase the lead to two. The second half was scoreless for both teams as the Racers moved to 4-2 in conference play.
“We did what we set out to do, again,” Groves said. “We won 2-0 and we got another shutout which was big. I don’t think we played perhaps as good as we should have. I think it was hard to recreate the emotion and energy that we had on Friday. That was a game that maybe two months ago we might have lost. It’s taken up until this point to figure out how we win and play, so it was good that we got the result despite not really playing the best that we could have.”
Murray State now goes on the road for the next three out of four games to finish out OVC play. According to Groves, the Racers have been less than stellar on the road this season, but he knows that these next games are must-win.
“We are in reach here of something pretty special that hasn’t been done in a while so I think we just take it one weekend at a time and one game at a time,” Groves said. “Every game at this point of the season is massive. Each one becomes bigger than the last one. Our whole goal is to hopefully finish in the top two. We want to get in the tournament and I think we are probably a victory away from doing that, but I think our next step is to get into the top two so that we get a bye in the tournament.”
Richerson feels that the recent momentum must translate to road wins, as well.
“We were on that five-game winning streak then we kind of stepped down for a little bit,” Richerson said. “I just think going hard in practice and competing with each other and keeping our confidence is what is going to keep our momentum going.”
The Racers begin their away stretch today as they take on Eastern Illinois at 3 p.m. to clinch a spot in the OVC Tournament.
Story by Peter Northcutt , Staff writer