STARKVILLE, Miss. – Senior Jenni Brashear’s veteran leadership was the deciding factor for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback soccer team as it remains undefeated in Southeastern Conference play thanks to a 2-1 overtime win against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss., on Friday evening.
The win improves the Lady Razorbacks to 6-4-1 overall and 2-0-1 in SEC action while Mississippi State falls to 4-5-1 overall and 1-2-0 in league play. Arkansas’ SEC record gives it seven points which puts it in a tie for the SEC’s western division and continues the squad’s best-ever start in SEC action.
“I thought that this was a well played game by both sides,” Arkansas head coach Gordon Henderson said. “It was about as even a game as it can get. A tight defensive struggle throughout, but I felt good about limiting Mississippi State’s opportunities. I am incredibly proud of this team for winning on the road and in a tough location. I wanted to create a culture of success and part of that is finding a way to win in tight games.
“We still have a long way to go in the learning curve, but I want the team to enjoy this win,” Henderson continued. “Its been a long time since Arkansas has had this kind of start, but its only a start. It becomes wasted if the team doesn’t continue to play every game. I want the team to enjoy this win tonight, but tomorrow its back to work, we still have a long way to go.”
Friday night’s contest was the Brashear show as she scored Arkansas’ first goal and assisted on the game winner just 2:44 into overtime.
In dramatic fashion, Arkansas used a quick counter attack to score the game winner as it attacked down the right side of the field. A long pass into space allowed Arkansas’ senior to run onto the ball and send a tremendous cross to the back post where sophomore Katie Hamilton leaped into the air and hit a header to the far corner of the goal to give Arkansas the win.
“I saw Jenni running and she looked up,” Hamilton said of the play. “I yelled her name and her ball came across the goal. I was extremely tired, but I knew that I had to get there. After I hit it I just watched it and thought please fall. It happened to fall at the right place.”
“I ran onto the ball and took a touch,” Brashear recounted. “Then I saw Katie on the far post and connected with her. I fell back after I kicked the ball so I didn’t see the result, but then saw a girl kicking the post so I knew that we had won.”
“I think that it was fitting that such a well played game was decided on such a world class goal,” Henderson said. “The serve to the back post and the diving header into the top corner was a spectacular finish. I couldn’t be more pleased for Katie because I think that she is one of the unsiung workhorses for our team and has been throughout the season. I am just happy for her to get the recognition she desreves. Speaking with her about that, she is just happy that the team won and that statement says it all.”
Arkansas got on the board first, just 13 minutes into the contest, when junior Katie Taylor put pressure on the Mississippi State defense thanks to a strong run into space. As the defense converged, Taylor sent a pass to the top of the penalty area where a streaking Brashear took one touch with a defender draped on her. Sliding to take a shot, Brashear put her shot into the bottom left corner of the goal to give Arkansas a 1-0 lead. Brashear’s goal was her fourth of the season while Taylor picked up her second assist.
Ahead 1-0 at the 13 minute mark, Mississippi State came storming back and controlled tempo, a plan that paid dividends in the 23rd minute. As the Bulldogs went on the offensive, they used a pair of crisp passes to get the ball to April Berry who launched a 22-yard volley into the upper 90 for the game’s equalizer. Lady Razorback keeper Carrie Dillsaver made a fabulous play on the ball just to get a hand on it, but despite her best efforts was unable to prevent the ball from sailing into the goal.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Ole Miss Lady Rebels in Oxford, Miss., at 1:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback soccer or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.