Coming into the match, the Lady Bulldogs should have expected a barrage of shots from the active Lady Gamecocks offense. South Carolina ranked second in the SEC in shots on goal entering play tonight. Mississippi State had to rely on the shot-blocking skills of sophomore goalkeeper Taryn Holland to keep the potent Lady Gamecocks offense at bay.
And to say that she kept them at bay would be a very precise statement.
Holland leaped, dived and slide to save all nine of the South Carolina shots that came near her goal, including two during the second overtime period. The Franklin, Tenn., native seemed to thrive under the pressure of the match as she batted shots away, sometimes in succession.
"Taryn is an outstanding keeper when she's mentally focused," head coach Neil Macdonald said. "She put in an amazing performance tonight. She came up with at least three occasions with absolutely top-class saves."
In preventing the Lady Gamecocks from scoring a goal, Holland and the Lady Bulldog defenders kept senior Darcel Mollon in check as well. Mollon entered the match with seven goals on the season and is an instant threat to score a goal anytime she is near the net. Mollon was held to two shots during the match, with only one shot on goal.
Without a goal from Mollon or any other Lady Gamecock, South Carolina was also forced to rely on strong goalkeeping from starting goalkeeper Laura Armstrong. After a collision with Lady Bulldog Treena Ferguson with 20 minutes remaining in the second half forced Armstrong to leave the match, Lindsay Thorstenson entered the match to guard the net against the Lady Bulldogs.
Thorstenson gathered two saves during her tenure as goalkeeper and was in the box during the final push by the Lady Bulldogs. With under a minute left in the second overtime, junior Bethany Frazier launched a corner kick from the left side. The ball could not be put into the goal by any Lady Bulldog player and was booted around inside the 18-yard box. After 15 seconds of being kicked around, the ball was corralled by Anna Goblirsch near the top of the box and sent sailing over the net.
Though a winning decision wasn't recorded by the team tonight, Macdonald remained optimistic about the outcome of the match.
"I was very happy [about the team's performance]," Macdonald said. "We're a young team, and we're showing improvement all the time. I felt that towards the end we started getting some momentum, and we could have knicked it from them. But overall I'm very pleased."
The Lady Bulldogs will complete their four-game SEC homestand Sunday at noon with a match against Florida (6-4-2, 2-2-0 SEC).