BATON ROUGE - Led by an All-American performance by junior goalkeeper Megan Kinneman and a pair of goals by emerging freshmen Colby Maffei and Heather Magee, the Tigers scored a thrilling 2-1 victory over Memphis to wrap up the non-conference season on Monday night at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
Kinneman turned in a career-high 10 saves and Maffei and Magee led the scoring as the Tigers (4-1-2) are now unbeaten in their last four outings. The home side also snapped a three-game losing streak to Memphis (2-3) while taking a narrow 4-3 advantage in the all-time series.
With the win, the Tigers now turn their attention to their Southeastern Conference opener as they welcome Texas A&M to Baton Rouge on Friday night at 7 p.m. CT.
"Memphis is a tremendous attacking team. This is probably the most talented group they've had the last couple of years," said LSU head coach Brian Lee. "They have been our El Guapo these past couple of years. It's good to get a quality win to finish up our non-conference season."
Just over one minute after checking into the game, Maffei gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead on a class finish in the 24th minute of play when she buried a one-timer from 10 yards following an end-line cross from fellow freshman Fernanda Piña, who also checked into the game with Maffei at the 22:01 mark. Piña took possession in the midfield following an LSU throw-in and danced around the Memphis right back to free herself to the end line before Maffei buried the centering pass for her first career goal at the 23:07 mark.
Memphis threatened to equalize just five minutes later when reigning Conference USA Player of the Year Christabel Oduro drew a penalty after being taken down in the right side of the area.
Kinneman was all that stood the way of the game-tying goal as midfielder Kylie Davis stepped up to take the spot kick for the visitors. As Davis made her approach and fired a strike toward the right post, Kinneman never hesitated while diving to her left to keep Memphis off the scoreboard in the 29th minute.
Kinneman then denied Oduro twice on breakaway opportunities late in the first half when the All-American striker broke free of the LSU back line in the 38th and 41st minutes.
"Their wingers were very good. Their center forward was good at stretching us and getting us out of position so they could play up to their forwards and play through balls," Kinneman said. "They are very dangerous in the final third. They showed that tonight. We knew it was going to be a challenge, and I just did what I was supposed to do tonight."
As Memphis continued to pressure for the equalizer into the second half, Magee doubled the LSU advantage with a brilliant left-footed strike on the hour for her second goal of the season. After running onto the ball on the right wing, Magee cut inside and made a run across the top of the box before unleashing a 20-yard cracker that smashed the crossbar and deflected across the goal line to give LSU a 2-0 lead at the 60:41 mark of the second half.
After midfielder Natalia Gomez-Junco fired a strike from distance off the crossbar in the 75th minute, Oduro pulled one back for Memphis just seconds later as she sliced a bending ball inside the upper 90 from the left end line for her second goal of the campaign at the 75:13 mark.
But that was as close as the visitors would climb as Kinneman made a career-high 10 saves on 11 shots on target by the visitors on the night.
Kinneman eclipsed her previous career-high of nine saves in a single game that she set twice as a true freshman in matches against Illinois in her first career start on Sept. 17 and against 17th-ranked South Carolina in the SEC Tournament semifinal on Nov. 5 during the 2010 season.
"Megan has been tremendous all year," Lee said. "Memphis is a great attacking team. They probably have some of the best attacking players in the country. It took a cross, an unlucky upper 90 ball to get past Megan late in the second half. I thought she played very well for us tonight."
With the non-conference season now in the books, the Tigers open SEC play on Friday night with a match against conference newcomers Texas A&M that is set to kick off at 7 p.m. CT in Baton Rouge. The No. 11-ranked Aggies kick off an SEC-opening weekend at the LSU Soccer Stadium that also features the clash with the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16.