They welcomed into Starkville the #4 ranked team in the country, easily the best team in the SEC thus far, the South Carolina Gamecocks who sport an 11-0-1 record with their only non-win was a double overtime tie 1-1 against the Oklahoma Sooners back on August 19th.
Mississippi State came into the match short-handed as they are without left winger Kennadi Carbin, who received a red card against Alabama with 9 seconds left in the game after retaliating from being tackled hard unnecessarily. Red cards not only get the player ejected from the current game, but require them to serve a one game suspension after as well so the Bulldogs will have to find someone to put out on the left wing to replace Carbin. It’s not all bad as the Bulldog’s regained a player back from injury as Khalyn Harmon came back into the squad after missing multiple games.
Uniquely, the Mississippi State Bulldogs always seem to play their game no matter whoever it is that they face off against. The Bulldogs attacked, combined passes together, and created opportunities all throughout the first half. The ladies played tough nosed defense and didn’t allow the Gamecocks to possess the ball for too long in the Bulldog half of the field which resulted in limited chances for the highly regarded Gamecocks. As always, Ari Holmes was right in the middle of all the defensive action clearing balls out of the back left and right. Mallory Eubanks and MaKayla Waldner wreaked havoc up top running balls down the side line, playing through balls, and occasionally a shot on goal. Tanya De Souza was ready though whenever the Gamecocks did break through and made two incredible saves that were right in front of goal. The South Carolina women turned the heat up in the last five minutes of the half creating chance after chance and constantly keeping the Bulldog defense on their heels but they couldn’t break through as the Bulldogs defense remained united and together and cleared out all chances to close out the half. Overall, the Mississippi State Bulldogs played an incredible first half by holding the Gamecocks offense and then creating offensive chances for themselves too. Unfortunately, neither team could break through each other’s tough defenses as the first 45 concluded scoreless 0-0.
The South Carolina Gamecocks started out playing as their reputation preceded them as they continued what they started at the end of the first half and came out charging, attacking, and firing on all cylinders by creating chances and winning every ball in the midfield in the first ten minutes of the second half. The Mississippi State women were caught off guard and fell all the way back into their half to the point they had 8 of their 10 field players in their own 18 yard box. Coach Gordon got his ladies together and got back into the game. Eubanks and Waldner responded and still were creating chaos in the South Carolina defense as they took the ball from midfield and played between each other all the way into the 18 yard box and got a shot on goal. They then created two more chances and gained a corner for the Bulldogs as they put on their own offensive attack and did not back down from the #4 team in the nation.
As the contest winded down into the last 15 minutes, the South Carolina team played great soccer and possessed the ball with pure class and slowed the entire game down. They took the energy right out of the game by constantly possessing it and only giving it up whenever the Bulldogs made a clearance and gave it right back to the Gamecock defenders. The Mississippi State women remained calm and remained solid throughout as they didn’t allow the South Carolina women to capitalize on any of their mistakes because they did not make any. They played defense to perfection by not stabbing at the ball and getting beat, the Bulldogs kept everything in front of them and just remained patient with the #4 team in the nation.
The game was even and the Bulldogs were hanging tough with the SEC powerhouse down the stretch of the 2nd half but eventually the dam burst when South Carolina capitalized off a turnover by the Mississippi State Bulldogs as they tried to counterattack. The Gamecocks played a through ball and the Bulldogs defense missed the clearance, the Gamecocks preceded to have 3 players run into the box when the cross was played. The ball bounced once and went over the last defenders head and landed right at the feet of South Carolina forward Sophie Groff, she took one touch and blasted it into the back of the net in the 80th minute making the score 1-0. The Bulldogs could not recover as they tried to attack but just couldn’t connect the passes anymore. The Gamecocks won every ball and held on to it and tried wasting time by shielding it in the corner by the corner flag as the clock ticked down. All said and done the Mississippi State Bulldogs put up one heck of a fight against the 4th best team in the nation and the best team in the SEC but could not hang on as the Gamecocks prevailed and went on to win 1-0 in Starkville on Thursday night.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-7-0) (1-5-0 in SEC) will have no break though as on Sunday they travel and face off with yet another ranked team, the #18 Auburn Tigers. It shall be a great test yet again for these valiant Bulldogs but they seem to be putting the pieces together and getting better and better each week. Before the match up with the Gamecocks Tanya De Souza was ranked 4th in the SEC in saves and with her 8 saves on Thursday night it pushes her to 65 saves on the season passing her previous season record of 60 that she set in the 2015 season.