Story by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
The Racers clinched a spot in the OVC Tournament after two wins against Morehead State and Tennessee Tech, leading them to a 7-0 record in conference play over the weekend.
Murray State came into the later part of a four-game road trip hungry to continue its historic run.
The first win was Oct. 15 at Morehead State in a battle for the conference lead. Morehead State came into the game with an overall record of 7-7-1 and an OVC record of 4-1, but was no match for the Racers, who won 2-0.
It didn’t take long for the Racers to show their eagerness to prove they are the best team in the conference as Harriet Withers, sophomore from Murwilumbah, Australia, scored the first goal in the ninth minute to give the Racers the quick lead they wanted.
The rest of the half proved to be a battle as Morehead State led the first half in shots 6-4, as neither team could capitalize on the opportunities put in front of them.
The second half ended up being a defensive struggle and no team could get on the board until the 88th minute. Marissa Burroughs, senior from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, found Taylor Stevens, senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana and put the ball past the keeper to seal the victory for Murray State.
This win gave the Racers a record of 6-0 in the conference and gave them complete control of their own destiny .
“I don’t really think we need to change anything,” Stevens said. “We just need to get focused and keep doing the things we have been doing right.”
The second game of the weekend took place Sunday at Tennessee Tech against the Golden Eagles. Tennessee Tech came into the game with an overall record of 7-5-3 and a conference record of 5-1, but the Racers came away with a 2-1 victory.
The game started out almost identical to the Morehead State game, as the Racers came out ready to clinch a playoff spot for the second year in a row. In the 19th minute, Withers found a wide open Taylor Richerson, junior from Murray, and hit the back of the net to give the Racers a one goal advantage off the bat. Alex Steigerwald, freshman from West Chester, Ohio, continued to impress as she was tested in the first half, making five saves to keep the lead 1-0 to end the half.
Murray State came out strong in the second half, scoring in the 57th minute on a goal by Stevens who was assisted by Withers to give the Racers a 2-0 lead.
Tennessee Tech would prove to continue to put up a fight as they got on the board in the 69th minute thanks to Mackenzie Miller, senior from Wildwood, Missouri, to put the Racer advantage at one going into the last twenty minutes.
This goal was the first goal the Racers gave up in four games. Murray State hung onto the slim lead to claim its spot in the OVC Tournament for the second year in a row.
“There’s not as much pressure now because we know we are in the tournament, but obviously want to win our last three games,” said Racheal Foxley, senior from Bolton, England.
Murray State will conclude its season with three home games before it gears up for the conference tournament.
The first of their home games will take place at 3 p.m. Friday at Cutchin Field against Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. The Racers will then take the field for Senior Day at 1 p.m. Sunday against Eastern Illinois.
“A lot of teams put focus on Senior Day and it kind of takes away from the game,” Foxley said. “We are going to do more senior things when the season is over so we can concentrate on the season right now.”
The Racers will end their regular season with another home game at 3 p.m. Thursday against Austin Peay State.
Though the teams in the remaining three games have been struggling, Head Coach Jeremy Groves wants the women to stay on track and continue with their success.
“We just talk about every game is like a conference tournament final,” Groves said. “Every game we are going to get peoples best shot from here on in.”
The Racers are on the brink of breaking another record in Murray State soccer history for the most wins in the regular season.
“The most wins in a season here is only 12, we are at 11 right now with three games to go,” Groves said. “And I know these girls have been great about trying to break records this year and that’s how they motivate.”
Murray State is now just one win away from sharing the OVC regular season title and two wins away from the outright OVC regular season title for the first time since 2008.