Racers clinch OVC title, host semifinals and finals
Story by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
The Racers clinched the regular season OVC title and the No. 1 seed in the OVC Tournament with a 2-0 win over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a 4-0 win over Eastern Illinois.
This is the second regular season title for the Racers and their third title overall in the OVC. They head into their last game of the regular season, looking to finish undefeated in the conference.
“We just want to keep the momentum going for two weeks’ time from when we host the tournament here,” said Head Coach Jeremy Groves. “We aren’t going to rest people and we are going to go for it.”
In the first game against SIUE, the game started slow as it was a defensive struggle, taking 43 minutes for anyone to score until Marissa Burroughs, senior from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, scored to give the Racers a 1-0 advantage at halftime.
It took 11 minutes in the second half for Taylor Richerson, junior from Murray, to score another to give the Racers a 2-0 lead in the 56th minute. The Racers goaltending and defense came up huge as SIUE outshot the Racers 9-6 during the second half.
The win against SIUE clinched the No. 1 seed in the OVC Tournament, where the Racers will have a bye into the semifinals and host both the semifinals and finals.
“Obviously hosting is fantastic,” Groves said. “Maybe over the past two or three years the host hasn’t always gone on to win it so that is something that we will talk about.”
The Racers came into the game against the Panthers knowing they would host the tournament but wanting to set just one more record – 13 wins in a season.
Senior day ended up being special for Rebecca Bjorkvall, senior from Aland, Finland, when she scored her first goal of the season in the 21st minute.
“It was amazing,” Bjorkvall said. “It was just so nice to finally score, I hadn’t scored all season so it felt like the perfect day to score a goal.”
The Racers ended up out shooting their opponents 10-2 in the first half but the goal from Bjorkvall was the only goal in the first half.
Murray State put the game away with three goals from Taylor Stevens, senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Emily Niehaus, sophomore from Vincennes, Indiana, and Harriet Withers, sophomore from Murwilumbah, Australia. The route made Senior Day special as the Racers set a new school record at 13 wins in a season.
Niehaus’ goal came in the 80th minute after a blocked shot found its way to Caroline Ashton, freshman from Fishers, Indiana. She then looked and found the open Niehaus for not only her first goal of the season, but the first goal of her career. This earned her the honor of being the Murray State Pepsi Athlete of the Week.
The Racers’ next game before the tournament is this Thursday against Austin Peay State to end the regular season.
Groves said the team needs to stay focused and not worry about the tournament, as it wants to be one of the few teams to finish the conference season undefeated.
The Racers host the semifinals and finals of the OVC Tournament on Nov. 6 and 8 and they are still waiting on their opponents. This marks the first time since 2008 the Racers will host the OVC semifinals and finals.