October 26, 2012 11:39:48 AM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- A season of heartache and disappointment ended with laughter, smiles, and hugs for the Mississippi State University women's soccer team Thursday night.
Elisabeth Sullivan's golden goal in the second overtime lifted MSU to a 3-2 victory against University of Mississippi in the final Southeastern Conference regular-season match for each team at the MSU Soccer Field.
"It was great. It was amazing," said Sullivan, a junior from Memphis, Tenn. "I am so happy for the seniors. They have worked so hard and really deserved to go out like this. Everybody around here is excited when you beat Ole Miss."
With the victory, MSU claimed the Magnolia Cup, a trophy awarded each year to the winner of the in-state tussle. MSU last claimed the cup on this field in 2010 after a 2-1 victory. Ole Miss regained possession last season with a 2-0 victory in Oxford.
"I am so proud of this team," said MSU coach Neil Macdonald, who is 3-4-1 in the rivalry. "The girls have faced a lot of adversity this year. However, they never gave up. They always fought to the end. I take great pride in the effort they gave this season."
After winning the first seven matches, MSU finished 9-10-1 and 2-10-1 in league play. Despite the loss, Ole Miss (12-8, 5-8) earned the No. 9 seed in the 10-team SEC tournament next week at Orange Beach, Ala. It will take on No. 8 seed LSU at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The winner of that match will take on top-seeded University of Florida at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
While the Rebels' season will continue, the Bulldogs will have to take solace in winning the final match of their season.
"Beating Ole Miss is what you want to do in every single season," MSU senior goalkeeper Skylar Rosson said. "For this to be the last match I play here and for us to win, it is an awesome feeling. I really enjoyed my time here. I loved being a Bulldog."
The Bulldogs were in good hands with Rosson in goal most nights. Rosson recorded 10 saves Thursday night, giving her 337 for her career, second best in school history. She leaves MSU with a career-best 13 shutouts.
Ole Miss held the upper hand for most of the night. The Rebels had a 22-8 advantage in shots and a 13-4 edge in shots on goal. Rosson may have made the match's best save with a behind the back stab in the final minutes of the first overtime period.
"She is really a rock back there," Sullivan said of Rosson.
Sullivan scored two of her team's three goals. The game-winner came from about 15 feet out at the top of the box in the 104th minute. With her two scores, Sullivan became the school's all-time leading scorer with 23 career goals. The previous mark had been held by Meredith Riekert and Amy Van Zandt.
"Sully is an exceptional player," Macdonald said. "We have said that so many times before. She can turn players. She can take players on. If the other team double-teams her, she still beats them. She is an incredible athlete with a great mind for the game."
After the teams played a scoreless first half, few could have imagined the offensive fireworks upcoming.
MSU managed four shots in the first half but opened the scoring with an own goal in the 65th minute. About seven minutes later, the cowbells rang out again as Sullivan scored on a baseline shot, assisted by Madison McKee. MSU entered the match having scored two or more goals in only three conference matches.
Ole Miss answered following a series of shots resulted in Sara Coleman's third goal of the season. Mandy McCalla earned the assist. In less than three minutes, Ole Miss went right back on the attack and McCalla assisted Rafaelle Souza's 12th goal off a cross in the 79th minute.
"I am really proud of the way we kept our composure when we lost the lead," Macdonald said. "A 2-0 lead is always big because the next goal is usually the one that puts away the match. Give Ole Miss credit for coming right back and attacking and staying in the match."
The Rebels continued the attack and forced Rosson to make a pair of saves in the closing minutes of regulation as the Bulldogs tried to extend the match into extra play.
"We were fighting hard," said Sullivan, who finished the season with 12 goals. "There was no way we weren't going to let go of this one without a fight."
MSU began the first 10-minute overtime period on the attack. The Bulldogs had several scoring chances, including a give-and-go and a corner shot that sailed wide left by inches.
In the second overtime, the Bulldogs seized the momentum and saw Sullivan score a second goal for a school-record fourth time this season.
"I thought we really dominated each of the extra periods," Macdonald said.
Prior to the match, the Bulldogs recognized seniors Rosson, Katy Hoover, Jennifer Grant, Zehra Syed, Lauren Morgan, Jasmine Simmons, McKee, and Julie Waddle. Four of the seniors started.
"Everything is in place," Sullivan said. "We had so many young players who played lots of minutes this year. It is all right there for us. It is all a matter of how hard we work during the offseason."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter