September 10, 2012 8:16:46 AM
BY SCOTT WALTERS
STARKVILLE - Not even an impromptu series of showers caused by the accidental turning on of the sprinkler system could cool off the Mississippi State University soccer team Sunday night.
Playing an atypical nighttime Sunday match, Mississippi State knocked off in-state rival University of Southern Mississippi 1-0 before an energetic crowd at the MSU Soccer Field.
Jasmine Simmons scored the match's lone goal less than three minutes into a sudden-death overtime period. With the victory, MSU improves to 7-0 for the second time in its 17-year program history and first time since 2009.
"This was a hard-fought match I think this is what we needed to get ready for (Southeastern) conference play," said Simmons, a senior mid from Oklahoma City, Okla. "I am just really glad I hit that shot well and it was able to go in. It was a long, intense match. That was a good way to end it."
MSU cashed in on its first scoring opportunity in the extra period. Morganne Grimes set up Dana Forbes who fed Simmons. Simmons drove the game-winner past Southern Miss keeper Lindsey Schwaner.
"This was a really great match and it says a lot that we found a way to win," MSU freshman forward Honeye Heydari said. "I thought our defense was really great tonight. That was the difference in the match. We did not have as many opportunities to score as we have been having.
"The goal though was scored with some great passing. This win gives us a lot of confidence going forward."
MSU now turns its attention to the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule, which opens Friday at South Carolina. A year ago, the Bulldogs finished 3-7-1 in league play but failed to qualify for the conference tournament. MSU has played in that event twice - in 2001 and 2004.
This season, the new-look 14-team SEC will play a 13-match conference schedule. Two additional teams will make the conference tournament, meaning MSU needs to place in the Top 10 to qualify for this year's event. Making a push into the upper division in the league could pave the way for a postseason berth.
"I really like where this team is (headed into conference play)," MSU head coach Neal Macdonald said. "Granted, we have to become a more physical team. However, playing in the Southeastern Conference will toughen you up in a hurry. We have so many freshmen, who are playing big minutes for us.
"I look forward to watching them make the jump this weekend."