Story by Adam Redfern
Back to back champs
First-year Head Coach Matt Lodge led the Racer women’s soccer team to their second-straight OVC tournament championship, defeating tournament-host UT Martin 2-1.
“I’m so proud of this group; we have had so much adversity this season,” Lodge said. “They don’t believe in excuses. They make my job so much easier when they work as hard as they do.”
The OVC championship game began with the Skyhawks getting good looks on goal early in the first half. However, it seemed that for every good look UT Martin worked for, Murray State senior goalkeeper Alex Steigerwald would make a better save.
The Racers were unable to get going offensively in the first half. The team could hardly possess the ball for a couple seconds before a Skyhawk challenged the ball.
It seemed the Skyhawks’ pressure would be too much for Murray State to handle. The Racers in the midfield struggled early on and were stripped of possession often.
Despite the effort from UT Martin, the Racers kept the Skyhawks off the scoreboard and headed into the half tied 0-0.
Two minutes into the second half, sophomore Rebecca Kubin received a ball at midfield from the backline, and then dribbled past four Skyhawks to slot the ball in the left corner, which gave the Racers the first lead of the game at 1-0.
Kubin helped the Racers apply some pressure on the Skyhawks when eight minutes later, she would dribble past a couple more defenders and drop the ball off to junior forward Miyah Watford. Watford passed the ball back to Kubin, but her shot rocked the post. Watford found the rebound at her feet and doubled the Racers’ lead to 2-0.
UT Martin would strike back in the 62nd minute of the game when senior defender Kaci Mitchell made a tough shot from 25 yards out to make the score 2-1.
Senior defender Karsyn Hasch left the field with an apparent leg injury in the 63rd minute. Junior forward Elizabeth Tilton would sub on for Hasch, and Watford joined the backline for the first time this year.
Murray State adopted a defensive approach to the game. The team sat back and helped their backline defend against the attack of UT Martin.
The strategy would pay off in the end, when the Racers ultimately won the game 2-1.
To end ones conference career at the highest point is a luxury rarely afforded to college athletes. However, the senior class of midfielder Caroline Ashton, forward Katie Brooks, forward Cori Cain, defender Lauren Nosal and goalkeeper Alex Steigerwald went from losing their first home game in their collegiate careers, to handing UT Martin its first OVC loss of the season and winning back-to-back OVC championships.
“Just experiencing [Sunday] after Friday is huge,” Steigerwald said. “This is nothing I would have ever imagined in my time here. I think that the work that was put Friday and yesterday at practice was huge. It is a great feeling to have.”
The Racers will make their fourth NCAA tournament appearance in history of the program.
Racers draw Vandy
On Monday, Nov. 6, the NCAA held a live stream to announce where each team would land on the NCAA tournament bracket.
Murray State women’s soccer team held a public watch party for the announcement. The team huddles around the screen anxiously waiting for its name to be called. The SEC regular season champs, Vanderbilt University, were called and the NCAA announced the two would be paired in Nashville, Tennessee, for the showdown.
In four trips to the NCAA tournament in program history, the Racers have been paired with an SEC team three-straight times.
Vanderbilt had the best regular season record in the SEC, only losing one game to Ole Miss 0-1. The Racers faced off against Ole Miss earlier in their regular season, losing to the Rebels 1-3.
Vanderbilt is entering the NCAA tournament on a two-game losing streak, with its last loss coming in the first round of the SEC tournament.
The Racers are on a two-game win streak after losing on senior night. They’ll square off against Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, in Nashville.
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