State Soccer Clinches SEC Tournament Berth

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Senior forward Ngum Suh scored her first goal of the 2004 campaign midway through the second period to rally behind a stingy Mississippi State defense and key the visiting Bulldogs to a 1-0 blanking of Kentucky Sunday afternoon at the UK Soccer Complex and clinch the Bulldogs' first berth into the SEC Tournament since the 2001 season.

Coming into the game with a trio of assists, Suh netted her first score since August 31 of last season for State (7-8-3, 4-5-1 SEC), while junior goalkeeper Emily Meyers produced her third shutout of the season with six saves in the nets. Fellow senior Kristin Peterson, who had scored twice in the last four games heading into Sunday, collected the first of two gamewinning assists on the play, with Betty Ann Casey snagging the other.

Erin Witchey tallied four shots on the afternoon to provide all the highlights for the Wildcats (6-10-1, 3-6-1) who stretched their losing streak out to four games with the home setback.

The victory, coupled with a Arkansas loss at Florida and a Georgia tie at Auburn, gave the Maroon and White their first appearance at the postseason conference gala since a run to the SEC Western Division championship in 2001 that netted the Bulldogs a No. 2 overall seed. With Sunday's triumph, MState can fall no lower than a No. 7 seed at the tournament to be held Nov. 4-7 in Auburn, Ala.

"I thought we played very well today," said Mississippi State head coach Neil Macdonald. "Ngum Suh played outstanding throughout the course of the game and, if there was a highlight to take from the game, she would be it. I thought that we played with a purpose today and we got the points that we needed to achieve our primary goal. I am very proud of the way we withstood their tempo down the stretch and am elated to take this victory back home with us."

Kentucky's Elisabeth Jones would test Meyers in the first three minutes of the contest but, after a routine save by the Bay St. Louis native, the Bulldogs would go on the offensive for much of the next 15 minutes of play. Kentucky would get its best chance to score on a header by Jones in the 27th minute, but Morgan McDonald used her own head, literally, to keep the quality shot from finding its way over the endline.

MSU would find its scoring chances down the stretch of the opening period, but both of Betty Ann Casey's shots in the 38th and 39th ticks found their way just wide of the posts. The teams hit the intermission in a 0-0 deadlock, despite a 6-5 shot advantage by the Maroon and White.

Neither team would give an inch in the opening minutes of the second half of play, but MSU put together a phenomenal scoring play in the 59th minute when Jennifer Turpin played a through ball to a streaking Meghan Odom. However, wet field conditions prevented Odom from getting a handle on the pass that set her up from 10 yards away and her shot traveled just wide of goal.

State would finally find its niché just more than 17 minutes in when Casey used a slide tackle to punch a ball away from a Kentucky defender into the waiting feet of Peterson. Peterson found Suh making a far post run and the Oregonian easily moved a ball past Butler for the MSU advantage.

Playing a mostly defensive game the rest of the way out, Kentucky would find its chances far and few down the stretch and, when they were sought out, failed to finish the scoring plays their offensive pressure would create. The 'Cats would get four shots in the game's final eight minutes ­ with two of them coming inside the penalty area ­ but, each time, UK muffed their shots allowing Meyers to rest easy.

At Lexington, Ky. (UK Soccer Complex)

KENTUCKY 0 0 - 0

62:03 MSU Ngum Suh (Betty Ann Casey, Kristin Peterson)

Shots: MSU 12 (Casey 4), UK 15 (Witchey 4). Shots On Goal: MSU 4 (Mullen 2), UK 7 (Witchey 3). Saves: MSU 7 (Meyers 6), UK 3 (Butler). Corner Kicks: MSU 0, UK 7. Fouls: MSU 7, UK 6. Cautions And Ejections: MSU ­ Shelledy (Yellow, 19:35), Davis (Yellow, 50:57). Offsides: MSU 0, UK 1. Att. ­ 442.

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