TROY, Ala. - Two second-half goals from Rachel Wannek lifted the Mississippi State soccer team to a 3-1 win against South Alabama and the Trojan Classic championship Sunday afternoon in Troy, Ala.
Wannek was involved in all three goals as the Bulldogs (4-1) broke a 1-1 halftime tie and claimed their third-straight victory. USA fell to 1-4 on the year.
State claimed the tournament championship, its third-straight going back to 2008, thanks to Troy's 5-2 win against Austin Peay in the tournament's final match.
Wannek also added an assist to finish the afternoon with five points, tying her for sixth-most in single-game history. Her quartet of points was also the most by a Bulldog since Kevyn Shelledy's five-point showing against Nicholls State at the 2008 South Alabama Tournament in Mobile, Ala.
"I thought Rachel scored two good goals inside the box today," Mississippi State head coach Neil Macdonald said. "She worked hard through the course of the game and showed the potential she has as a Division I player."
Wannek fired six of State's season-high 21 shots in the match. The Bulldogs also put 14 of their attempts on target. USA managed just nine shots, with six of those coming between the posts.
State freshman Elisabeth Sullivan gave MSU the early lead as she connected on her second goal of the season, a 24th-minute strike. Zehra Syed found Wannek in the center of the field, and she proceeded to slip the ball between defenders to Sullivan, who punched the ball into the net for the 1-0 Mississippi State advantage.
State's defense stifled the Jaguars' attack most of the first half, but a turnover in the midfield led to the Jaguars' Brandi Smith hitting the equalizer with 28 seconds left.
Mississippi State came out with an increased intensity in the second half, and it paid off 16 minutes in as Wannek gave the Dawgs the lead for good with her first goal of the season. Freshman Morganne Grimes worked the ball to senior Leanna Baldner, who served a ball over the top of the defense to Wannek for the game-winning goal.
"I thought at times we played quite well, but we still haven't put in a full 90 minutes of work," Macdonald said. "I thought we came out much better in the second half, creating and scoring a couple of good goals. This is another step leading up to SEC play, so we have to continue improving in every area of the field."
Baldner found Wannek again just 28 seconds later for State's final goal, the fourth-fastest time between goals in MSU history. The Meridian, Miss., native lifted a free kick into the box, and Wannek put the ball past Melissa Drish for a 3-1 lead.
MSU sophomore goalkeeper Skylar Rosson stopped five shots on the afternoon for a Bulldog defense that turned in a pair of stellar efforts over the weekend. Grimes and Baldner both earned all-tournament honors for their work on the back line.
The Bulldogs return to the home pitch for a pair of matches against Southwestern Athletic Conference foes. State hosts Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and Jackson State comes to town for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State senior Leanna Baldner has been named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week as the Bulldogs prepare to host Mississippi Valley State Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the MSU Soccer Field.
Admission to Tuesday's match is free, and a live video stream will be available in the Maroon to the Max portal on www.mstateathletics.com.
The Meridian, Miss., native earned the honor after helping the Bulldogs (4-1) surrender just one goal against both Troy and South Alabama en route to winning the Trojan Classic in Troy, Ala.
Baldner and her defensive teammates held Troy to nine shots while posting the team's second shutout of the season, a 2-0 victory.
She played a key part in the Bulldogs' championship-clinching 3-1 win against South Alabama on Sunday. In addition to her stifling defense in the center-back position, Baldner collected a career-high two assists in the second half to break a 1-1 halftime tie.
Baldner, who was named a Trojan Classic Outstanding Player, helped give State the lead for good in the 62nd minute with her perfectly-placed pass to Rachel Wannek over the top of the USA defense for the breakaway, game-winning goal.
She helped seal the win just 28 seconds later, finding Wannek for State's third goal on a free kick at the 62:08 mark. That 28-second span between goals stands as the fourth-fastest consecutive goals in school history.
Baldner, Mississippi State's assists leader, and the Bulldogs look to extend a three-game win streak as the Delta Devilettes come to town for the first match of the season at the newly-renovated MSU Soccer Field.
The two in-state schools have only met twice, with Mississippi State claiming both meetings. The Dawgs have not allowed a goal to MVSU, who enters Tuesday's match 0-4 after a 2-0 loss to Jacksonville State on Saturday.
State has collected 10 goals this season, with four Dawgs scoring two goals each. Rachel Wannek had a career day against South Alabama on Sunday, notching two second-half goals and an assist for a school sixth-best five points.
Wannek's assist came on freshman Elisabeth Sullivan's second goal of the season, a 24th-minute strike. Both Wannek and Sullivan have two goals and two assists for a team-high six points.
Sophomore Jasmine Simmons added her second goal of the season in the Dawgs' 2-0 win against Troy on Friday. Simmons has collected five points on two goals and an assist. Fellow sophomore Madison McKee has also found the back of the net twice this season.
Redshirt sophomore Skylar Rosson has played every minute in goal for the Bulldogs this season. The Edmond, Okla., native has stopped 22 shots while allowing just five goals for a 1.00 goals-against average.