August 26, 2013 12:30:31 PM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- The regular-season home opener was more a mental cleansing than a celebration for the Mississippi State University women's soccer program.
MSU first-year head coach Aaron Gordon felt his team needed a trip home after a crushing season-opening 3-2 loss to the University of South Alabama on Friday to start feeling better, which is why Gordon didn't and couldn't make his first regular-season match in Starkville about his leadership of the program. He had to make the 4-0 victory against Arkansas State University about getting the season back on track quickly.
"Maybe we didn't meet our own expectations in a hostile environment in Mobile, but we talked about it on the bus ride that we're coming back to our house," Gordon said. "We needed to redeem ourselves a little bit. We needed a mulligan."
Three first-half goals, including two by senior Elisabeth Sullivan, helped change the mental outlook. Sullivan became the school's all-time scoring mark 16 minutes, 15 seconds into the match on a shot near the back post to make it 3-0. The goal helped the Memphis, Tenn., native earn her school-record 64th point, breaking the previous standard of 62 held by Jessi Moore since the 2002 campaign.
"We've got great leadership with Elisabeth Sullivan, and where teams are at this point in the season is based on the depth of leadership athletes that you can turn to," Gordon said.
At halftime, Gordon told his players to stick to an aggressive plan of attack and not to sit back and protect their advantage in the final 45 minutes.
"I think we got goals early and then talked about it at halftime to say, 'Let's not apologize for three, but let's go for four, five, or six," Gordon said.
Sullivan's goals clinched the match after freshman Annebel ten Broeke, who had five points, scored in the second minute.
"It feels really good and I'm honored," Sullivan said of setting the career points mark. "The first (goal) was a through pass that I ran on to and hit in the right corner. The second one I had two defenders on me and I beat them and hit it in the right corner again."
After Sullivan attempted to go for a hat trick late in the second half, the senior was fouled hard on long run that gave MSU (1-1) a 19-yard free kick. Ten Broeke capped the scoring at the 58-minute mark by beating goalkeeper Michaela Supple with a low shot into the right side of goal.
MSU will open a four-match road swing next weekend when it travels to Fort Myers, Fla., for the Embassy Suites Classic. It will face Florida Atlantic University at 3:30 p.m. Friday before wrapping the weekend with a noon match Sunday against host Florida Gulf Coast University.
"We got the response we were looking for today, but, like everybody else in the country, we're not where we need to be," Gordon said. "That's OK, though, but we're putting goals on the board, and that's progress."
n Ole Miss 5, UAB 2: At Birmingham, Ala., the Rebels (2-0) got all the offense it needed in the first half and added two goals in the closing minutes to beat the Blazers.
Ole Miss had five players score goals in the victory.
"It was a great first half to get out to a quick lead," Ole Miss coach Matthew Mott said. "They responded and put us back on our heels a little bit, but I'm proud of the way we answered in the second half. It's never easy to win on the road, and we played well in a hostile environment in front of a great crowd.
"We moved the ball really well again tonight and five goal scorers tells you all you really need to know. We're making it hard to know who to key in on offensively. Now we have to go home and spend the next week getting ready for Northwestern State in front of a rowdy home crowd."
Rafaelle Souza, Jennifer Miller, Bethany Bunker, Olivia Harrison, and Mandy McCalla scored for Ole Miss, which will play host to Northwestern State at 7 p.m. Friday at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium.
n No. 15 Wake Forest 3, Alabama 0: At Winston-Salem, N.C., the Demon Deacons scored three goals in the first half to beat the Crimson Tide.
All three of the goals came on breakaways. All-America senior forward Katie Stengel had two goals, while Ally Berry scored the other goal.
The Crimson Tide had a great opportunity to take an early lead in the 10th minute when senior Molly Atherton ripped a shot from 22 yards out, but it ricocheted off the crossbar and was cleared away.
Alabama regrouped after intermission and outshot Wake Forest 6-5 in the final 45 minutes.
Alabama goalkeeper Shelby Church had three saves.
Alabama will play host to Georgia State at 7 p.m. Friday and Mercer at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Alabama Sports Complex.