MSU Soccer Bulldogs Bash North Florida 1-0

With the Bulldog Bash occurring minutes away from the MSU soccer field Friday night, the Lady Bulldogs (4-3-0) figured they would have a bash of their own. They opened up the Bulldog Bash weekend with a 1-0 victory over the visiting North Florida Ospreys (1-6-1).

The Bulldog Bash weekend, which began Friday evening with festivities and musical entertainment in Starkville's Cotton District, will culminate with the football game Saturday evening when MSU Bulldogs face off against the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs.

The match captured the excitement of the big weekend with a great turnout by the Bulldog fans, who voiced their encouragement during the match. The crowd was especially encouraging in the second half.

It was then, in the 69th minute to be exact, that the Lady Bulldogs broke the 0-0 tie that the match was knotted up in. After an interception by a Bulldog defender, the ball was passed to Treena Ferguson. Ferguson, who is known for her goal-scoring ability, lobbed a pass in the air to teammate Ashley Hood. The Huntsville, Ala. native then leaped up and headed the ball into the net to give MSU the 1-0 lead.

That lead could have and should have been expanded throughout the course of the match. From the beginning of the match, the Lady Bulldogs did a good job of pressing toward the goal. They took a lot of shots that narrowly avoided the goal.

One shot in particular that was barely missed by MSU occurred with 12 minutes left in the first half. Katelyn Graben entered on the left side of the 18-yard box and accepted a pass from a teammate. Graben knocked the pass down and attempted to hook the shot in, but it hooked in a few inches away from the goal.

There were several other close calls out of the 23 shots that the Lady Bulldogs took. Eight of those shots were on-goal, which meant that there were several missed opportunities in the match. Lady Bulldogs Head Coach Neil Macdonald chalked several of those miscues up to a lack of patience.

"It was one of those nights where I felt like we were rushing our shots a little bit," he said. "I felt that there were a lot of times where we could have taken that extra pass. We were shooting from 35 yards out instead of making that extra pass and shooting from 20 yards out."

In addition to some missed shot opportunities, there were also some missed opportunities due to fouls and penalties. The majority of the fouls committed by the Lady Bulldogs were offsides penalties, and one of the offsides penalties cost the team a goal.

Late in the game, the Lady Bulldog squad had a chance to increase its lead when Mariclaire Fancher received a great lead pass from a teammate as she entered the 18-yard box. She then dribbled around a defending Osprey and passed it to Katelyn Graben, who kicked the ball into the net. The fans cheered, and the fight song blared through the speakers for a couple of seconds, but the play was negated by an offsides penalty called by an official.

Macdonald said he questioned some of the calls, but there wasn't much he could do about them.

"They got some (calls) right, they got some wrong," he said. "They got a couple right tonight, but I thought there was one in particular (Katelyn's goal) that I thought was wrong. But what can you do?"

Despite the miscues and questionable calls during the match, Macdonald was impressed with several facets of the team.

"I thought our back four was excellent," he said. "I thought we possessed the ball well, we switched the field well, and that gave us a platform to attack from."

The match was the final home non-conference match on the 2007 slate, and the team will be looking to carry over the success and momentum to their SEC matches.

The Lady Bulldogs will return to the field in Memphis on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in a match against the Tigers. They begin their SEC schedule next weekend with a match at LSU Friday followed by a match at Arkansas on Sunday.

Brent Wilburn, a sports reporter for the MSU student newspaper The Reflector, is the soccer beat writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network.

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