Soccer Def. No. 19 Cincinnati to Equal Record Start
BATON ROUGE – Junior Alex Thomas broke the ice with her fourth goal of the season in the 44th minute and LSU’s defensive unit held strong for the remainder of the night as the Tigers matched their school-record start to a season with a 1-0 win over 19th-ranked Cincinnati on Thursday at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
Thomas gave the Tigers (7-0) the momentum at the break as she put the hosts in front with just 1 minute, 23 seconds to play in the first half with her team-leading and career-high fourth goal of the season.
Sophomore midfielder Jade Clarke cut through the right side of the Bearcat defense with a through ball to freshman Tinaya Alexander in the left side of the area. Alexander dribbled to the end line and pulled it back to Thomas at the top of the six-yard box for a composed one-time finish into the roof of the net to put send the Tigers into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
Alexander made history in the build-up as she tied former All-SEC midfielder Natalie Martineau’s school-record streak with an assist in her seventh-straight match this season. Martineau last accomplished the feat as a senior in 2011 while leading the Tigers to an SEC runner-up finish and NCAA Tournament berth that season.
“I saw Tinaya (Alexander) running,” Thomas explained following the match. “When you see that, it’s the key to get in so I just found a gap. I knew she would find me. She’s a great player and I just tapped it in.”
LSU earned its 12th win all-time against a nationally-ranked opponent while handing 19th-ranked Cincinnati (6-1-1) its first defeat of the season. Thursday’s win was just over two years to the day the Tigers last defeated a nationally-ranked opponent with a 1-0 home win over 15th-ranked and eventual NCAA runner-up Duke on Sept. 13, 2015.
Alexander came close to doubling LSU’s lead as the clock neared 20 minutes to play as Thomas played her through on the break, but she was unable to finish cleanly after a heavy second touch took her too close to the Cincinnati goalkeeper Madison Less in the 70th minute.
The Bearcats came close to leveling just three minutes later through Julie Gavorski as her free header from eight yards shaded the left post on its way out for a goal kick. Gavorski was again denied the equalizer by LSU junior Caroline Brockmeier as her lobbed effort from the right side was tipped onto the crossbar with an acrobatic save as Cincinnati was unable to stuff home the rebound.
Brockmeier made five saves on the night for her sixth clean sheet in seven starts in goal for the Tigers this season. Gavorski’s chance in the 87th minute was Cincinnati’s only shot on target in the second half.
“In the end it was real test of our character, toughness and grit,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “Watching Cincinnati earlier in the year, their defining characteristic is their toughness. Our challenge tonight was can we meet and exceed that against a top-25 team that will be in the NCAA Tournament and might win their conference. Real credit to our girls, I thought they did a great job.
“This was a very SEC type of game. If you are winning by a goal late in the game against a quality opponent in NCAA Division I soccer, they’re going to put some pressure on you. You are going to sit in a little and have to deal with that. We’ve become very good at that over the course of the year.”
The Tigers are back in action Sunday afternoon as they welcome Vanderbilt to Baton Rouge for their Southeastern Conference opener kicking off at 4 p.m. CDT at the LSU Soccer Stadium. LSU will make its SEC Network debut as the match is set to broadcast to a nationally-televised audience while also being streamed on the SEC Network+ at ESPN3.com.