Riding a two-game unbeaten streak after a pair of overtime contests against Georgia and Jacksonville State, the Bulldogs (4-4-2, 1-1-0 SEC) will look to gain an edge this weekend in the race for its second SEC Tournament berth. Although leading its nine-game-old series with the Maroon and White by a 7-2 count, Arkansas (5-4-1, 1-0-1) has not triumphed in Starkville since the 2000 campaign.
Although bringing a result out of the contest, the Bullldogs will look to capitalize on its home turf after feeling the sting of a tie to the Gamecocks on Tuesday that saw them dominate much of the latter part of the second half, as well as both of the sudden death overtime periods. Arkansas rolls into Starkville on a high note, having posted results in both games of its conference opening weekend, including a 2-1 defeat of Vanderbilt and a 1-1 tie with Kentucky.
"It is important for us to get the points (in the standings) when we are at home," said Mississippi State head coach Neil Macdonald. "When you're travelling, you have to deal with that added hassle and it makes it that much more difficult to get results on the road. I think that we match up very well with both of the teams that we play this weekend.
"If we can get two wins out of this weekend, we would really set ourselves up to go on the road for the next two weeks and it would really lift the pressure off our backs to have some points in the bag."
Reigning SEC Player of the Week Sarah Gwisdala will lead a potent Lady 'Back attack into the MSU Soccer Field after netting the game-winning goal against Vandy and the game-tying goal against the Wildcats over the weekend. Already posting six goals on the season, including a pair of gamewinners, Gwisdala paces a two-pronged offensive attack that also consists of leading returning scorer Christina Burger who has struck for four goals and two assists this season.
Defensively, Arkansas has proven to be just as dangerous where sophomore goalkeeper Carrie Dillsaver has tallied a 1.08 goals against average to complement 40 saves and a .784 save percentage. The defensive backline has been anchored by experience as well where the Lady 'Backs returned all four of their starters in Devon Burger, Katie Taylor, Allison Harris and Jenni Brashear. The quartet have started all 10 games for Arkansas this season.
"Arkansas plays a very similar system to us," Macdonald said. "They are a very good counter-attacking team, they have good pace and they pass the ball well. They also have very intelligent movement. It should be a very interesting matchup for both teams."
Mississippi State has had variety in its scoring column so far this season, but continues to get solid outings from the usual suspects in junior Betty Ann Casey (3G, 2 A) and sophomore Heidi Ondra (3G). However, the Bulldogs possess another pair who have scored two or more goals this season, including defender Karen Sandrik who ranks among SEC leaders with two gamewinners.
State has been solid with their back four as well where seniors Morgan McDonald and Sandrik, as well as junior Heather Ammann and freshman Jessica Davis, have limited their opponents to very few quality looks on the campaign. Junior goalkeeper Emily Meyers has now recorded consecutive double-digit save games in the first two starts of her career. Meyers tallied 13 stops in a win over Georgia on Sunday afternoon, then nearly equalled the task with 10 in MSU's tie with Jacksonville State.
Following Friday evening's contest, State will close out its homestand on Sunday afternoon when the Bulldogs suit up to take on fellow divisional rival LSU at the MSU Soccer Field. Kickoff for that contest has been set for 1 p.m.