Story by Blake Bernier, Staff writer
The Murray State soccer team won the first game in school history against an SEC opponent as they defeated Mississippi State 2-1, thanks in large part to Taylor Richerson’s play in the 70th minute.
As an added perk, Mississippi State paid Murray State $2,000 to come to Starkville in what’s called a guarantee game, in which a top-tier school pays a smaller school to come to their school and play. These games are for smaller schools to receive play time with top-tier schools and receive pay for their travel. In a similar fashion, the Racer football team is being paid $395,000 to play Northern Illinois on Sept. 12.
The turning point in the match came after senior Taylor Richerson stole the ball from the central defender and was fouled inside the 18-yard box resulting in the defender being ejected and Richerson earning a penalty kick.
“Their center back dwelled on the ball a little too long and we robbed it and got in behind and she brought us down and at that point it made the game even harder for them playing 11 against 10 for the last 20-25 minutes of the game,” said Head Coach Jeremy Groves.
Richerson converted the penalty kick and the Racers took the lead 2-1.
A lot of time went into scouting Mississippi State in the week leading up to the game. Groves said he made calls to other SEC teams to find out what to look for in the game and he watched their game from the previous week against the University of South Alabama.
“Obviously we scouted them pretty extensively,” Groves said. “Our week leading up was very good and we prepared really well and with that being said the girls went out there and did what they had to do, they listened and showed up and performed on the day.”
The Racers made a formation adjustment to combat the formation Mississippi State runs each game. Typically the Racers use four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards, known as a 4-3-3. but against the Bulldogs they moved a forward back to the midfield for a 4-4-2.
“We really talked a lot about how to defend the formation they played because in our exhibition game we struggled and they play the same formation, so that helped a lot,” Richerson said.
Each team had trouble finding offense with a combined total of 13 shots on the day. Richerson said the game was physical from start to finish.
“It was high intensity the whole time, Richerson said. “They were a pretty good team and it wasn’t the prettiest game but we did well being aggressive and pressuring them the whole time.”
Last season the Racers finished third in the OVC which was Groves inaugural year as head coach. This season the Racers will play eight home games and 10 away games including another matchup against an SEC opponent when they go to the University of Tennessee Sept. 6.
Groves said the win against Mississippi State showed the importance of playing a tough preseason and for the girls to gain confidence in themselves.
“That’s why we play the spring schedule of Vanderbilt and University of Kentucky so we can go to teams like this in the fall and compete with them and know that we can go there and win and the girls had great belief and their confidence showed,” Groves said.
In retrospect Groves said the game could’ve been more lopsided than the 2-1 score.
“I thought we made them look pretty ordinary at times with how they were trying to play, so it could’ve been more in the end,” Groves said. “We had a couple of one on one opportunities that we missed so it could’ve been 3-1 or even 4-1.”
The Racers will play their second game of the regular season today against Little Rock and will follow that up with another game on Sunday against Arkansas State.