Steve Robertson -

Mississippi State struggled to find quality shots in a 1-0 defeat to Lipscomb.

The MSU soccer team had their 2016 home opener Friday Night against Lipscomb. The Lady Bison entered the contest fresh off of their first ever win over an SEC opponent, a 2-0 result over Vandy this past Sunday. The Bulldogs entered the weekend with a record of 1-1-0 with a win against the College of Charleston and a heartbreaking loss in the final minutes against the #17 ranked Hokies from Virginia Tech. When the Friday night lights fell dark, the Bulldogs were on the short end of a 1-0 result.

The Bulldog home opener produced a great fan turn out in Starkville as the fans packed the bleachers and overflowed onto the grass hills on either side. The Bulldogs started out fast and aggressive by putting two shots just over the crossbar within the first five minutes.

Both teams played with excitement and heart in the first 10 minutes of the game; however neither could gain a grip on possession. There were lots of long balls and missed passes early on by both sides.

“We just kind of lacked a real sharpness that you need to have,” said Mississippi State Coach Aaron Gordon.

That lack of execution led to the Bison getting a goal off a corner kick set piece in the 16th minute of the game. The Bulldogs were beat to the ball as Lipscomb headed it down to the ground right to the foot of Bison’s forward Ellen Lundy who finished it into the back of the net giving the Lady Bison an early lead, 1-0.

Mississippi State goalkeeper Tanya De Souza finished the game with two catch saves and many deflected saves however could not stop the Bison on that decisive corner.

“We just needed to compete more to that ball and not let it get down low cause we should’ve headed it out before, "De Souza explained.”

The Bulldogs then used their competitive spirit after getting scored on to fight back at the Lady Bison. De Souza said, “After getting scored on, we finally woke up.”

The wake up call led to the Bulldogs having 18 total shots forcing nine saves and attempting six corner kicks. At halftime, Mississippi State was dominating the game on possession and shots, however Lipscomb’s lone shot on goal was converted providing the difference between the two teams in the first 45.

It was a very aggressive first half with 14 fouls being called, six on the Bulldogs and eight on Lipscomb.

The second half was full of the same things with the Bulldogs dominating the possession and attacking chances but yet they still could not break through Lipscomb’s tough nosed defense and savvy goalkeeper Anna Buhigas. The talented senior wasted as much time as possible by letting the ball roll until the last second before picking it up and she made nine great saves against the relentless Mississippi State attack.

All through the second half it seemed that the ball never left Lipscomb’s half of the field except for long clearances but almost as quick as it left, the ball would go right back in towards the 18 yard box.

Winding down to the last 15 minutes of the game, the Bulldogs kept crashing and taking shots on goal forcing the Bison to play their very best. Mississippi State standouts Kennadi Carbin and captain Mallory Eubanks led the charge with flashy dribbling down the sideline making defenders miss left and right.

The noisy home crowd in Starkville applauded and cheered each time a defender went the wrong way. Bulldogs defenders Khalyn Harmon and Ari Holmes played outstanding in the back line recovering all of the Bison clearances and putting them back into the attacking third. Holmes’ ability to give a corner kick-like cross off of a throw in was a big advantage for the Bulldogs as they had many chances coming off of her throws.

Ultimately the Bulldogs could not find that breakthrough goal to tie things up and they fell to the Lady Bison 1-0 lowering their record to 1-2-0 on the young season.

Mississippi State will be back in action against Tennessee-Martin on Sunday. The contest should be a good test for State in their second home match of the season. The young, upstart Skyhawks of UT-Martin had the night off on Friday and come in to Starkville fresh and ready for their first win. The Skyhawks enter Sunday with an 0-2-0 after falling to Western Kentucky 7-1 and to UAB 4-1.

The lady Skyhawks only have one upperclassman on the roster along with six freshman and ten sophomores. The loss to UAB came last Sunday, so the Skyhawks have a full week of rest coming into the game against Mississippi State this Sunday and are looking to get on the right track.

“It doesn’t matter what their score line is when you have a completely fresh team against a team that was pushed hard on a Friday night” said Coach Gordon. He remains optimistic though stating afterwards “It’s difficult, but we’ll just regroup and see what we can do to get a better result on Sunday.”

The game is set for kickoff at 1 pm at the MSU Soccer Field in Starkville. The SEC Network will handle the broadcast duties. 

This 2016-2017 Mississippi State team is different than in years past, because the Bulldogs have some experience. The team returns eleven upperclassmen on the roster, which is a first for Coach Aaron Gordon in his four seasons at the Bulldog helm.

Mississippi State’s senior Ari Holmes, junior forward Mallory Eubanks, and sophomore Carly Mauldin were all listed on this year’s SEC Preseason Watch List by the SEC coaches as part of their accolades earned by performance in the 2015 season. The talented trio are backing up that pre-season praise during the games in the early going as Mauldin had two goals during exhibition matches, Eubanks receiving All-Tournament honors in Charleston, and Holmes helping secure shutouts in the exhibitions and match against College of Charleston.

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