Soccer Comes Back for Fifth-Straight Win, 3-1
BATON ROUGE – Seniors Zoe Higgins and Nicole Howard and junior Alex Thomas turned around a 1-0 halftime deficit with three goals in a 12-minute span in the second half to lead the LSU Tigers to their fifth-straight win to open the season with a 3-1 victory over Austin Peay on Sunday night at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
The Tigers (5-0) claimed the spoils in the first ever meeting between the two sides while snapping a three-match winning streak by the Governors (3-2) entering the match. They remain off to their best start since 2008 when they won a program record seven-straight matches to open a campaign.
LSU saw its streak of 448 minutes without conceding a goal snapped in the 28th minute when a failed clearance of an Austin Peay corner kick deflected into the back of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
After facing their first halftime deficit of the season, the Tigers turned the tables in the second half when Higgins leveled on the hour with her team-leading fourth of the season before Howard found the winner on 68 minutes with her second goal of the season and Thomas put the match out of reach in the 72nd minute with her third goal of the campaign.
“It was our first real test of the season,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “We’ve come out so strong in the first four games and we’ve been up a couple of goals. Tonight when we had chances we did not have the same cutting edge early and we kind of let Austin Peay play their way into the game. The bottom line is that they are a mid-major that are going to win a ton of games.
“Halftime was a major character test. There was nothing tactical about it. The ability of our team to go out and show that grit, resolve and toughness to push their way through the second half is a positive sign.”
Thomas was presented LSU’s first chance of the second half when she collected a poor clearance by the Austin Peay defense and fired the Tigers’ first shot on target in the 46th minute. The hosts leveled on the hour as Higgins stuffed home the rebound in the six-yard box after Jade Clarke’s initial effort struck the crossbar and deflected away from Austin Peay goalkeeper Lindsey Todd.
“We were just focusing coming into the locker room (at halftime) on how this would be a huge test of our character,” Higgins said. “The whole talk was about showing everyone what we are made of. (Austin Peay) is a good team, and we might have underestimated them a little bit, but we came out flying and got the job done.”
That opened the floodgates as Howard scored what proved to be the match-winner just eight minutes later when she controlled Thomas’ centering pass and fired past a diving Todd from eight yards in front of goal.
Freshman defender Chiara Ritchie-Williams cut out the Governor defense with a class ball to Thomas in the left side of the penalty area as the New Orleans native danced to the penalty spot for a right-footed effort to decide the contest, 3-1, in the 72nd minute. The Tigers have now outscored their opponents by a 15-1 margin in 2017.
Goalkeeper Caroline Brockmeier delivered her best contribution of the night with Austin Peay still leading, 1-0, when she recovered to tip Pamela Peneloza’s open chip shot from 10 yards over the bar for a corner kick. The Governors forced Brockmeier into three saves in the win.
The Tigers will face their toughest test to-date when they travel to Orlando, Florida, on Friday to face No. 24-ranked Central Florida with the match scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. CDT at the UCF Soccer Complex. They’ll open up a three-game homestand next Sunday, Sept. 10, with a match against Liberty, the defending Big South Conference Champion, also set to kick off at 6 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Lee said. “They’re coming off a win against North Carolina, which is one of the pedigree programs in the country. They beat Arizona on Friday. They are a Top-20 team that is going to have a great season, and it is a chance for us to see where we are against that next level of teams. We are really excited for that chance.”