Alex Thomas (right) celebrates with Zoe Higgins (left) after scoring the equalizer in the 49th minute!
LSUsports.net

Soccer Plays Mississippi State to 2-2 Draw

Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – Junior forward Alex Thomas bagged a brace with two second-half goals in the 49th and 64th minutes as the Tigers shared the spoils with the visiting Mississippi State Bulldogs after the sides played to a 2-2 draw in a 3 hour, 41 minute marathon on Sunday afternoon at the LSU Soccer Stadium.

The Tigers (7-1-2, 0-1-2 SEC) drew their second-straight match in SEC play following their 1-1 draw at 24th-ranked Alabama on Thursday night and extended their unbeaten streak against the Bulldogs (7-1-2, 1-1-1) to 16-straight matches at 14-0-2 since the 2002 season.

After the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead into the break following a two-hour first half that was twice delayed by lightning, Thomas turned around the scoreline with her team-leading fifth and sixth goals of the season midway through the second half. Mississippi State found an equalizer with little more than four minutes to play in regulation to take its first point in the series back home to Starkville since 2004.

“SEC games are hard, and I thought it was a great comeback,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “We got down and came back strongly. I thought our fight was awesome, a good collective effort from everybody. Then we try to seal the game at the end and we just got loose on those players and stepped out without the proper recognition or marking in the box.”

The Bulldogs struck first in the 21st minute when Mallory Eubanks found the net with a curling effort from the edge of the area within minutes of the restart following the first lightning delay of the first half.

The Tigers responded quickly out of halftime when Thomas drew the hosts level at the 48:10 mark with a composed finish to the far post following the lay off by senior Zoe Higgins at the top of the six-yard box. For the New Orleans native, it was her fifth goal of the season to overtake Higgins as the team’s leading goal scorer this fall.

“Zoe’s back was turned, and I was in a better position,” Thomas explained after the match. “I was just like, ‘Zoe!’ She saw me and laid it off. It was a pretty easy finish. I just had to put it in the corner.”

Thomas completed the turnaround for the Tigers just past the hour mark when she converted the spot kick won by freshman Tinaya Alexander with a sensational dribble in the right side of the penalty area. Alexander was taken down after ghosting past a Bulldog defender, and referee Corey Rockwell immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the spot for a penalty.

“There’s always a strategy. I practice them a lot. It’s all a routine,” Thomas said of her routine for taking penalty kicks. “I just go through my routine and do everything perfectly the same way I do it every time so I know where I’m going and I’m confident that I can put it where I want it to go. You just have to be confident when you step up.”

Junior goalkeeper Caroline Brockmeier seemingly saved the game for the Tigers with just over six minutes to play with a dramatic reaction save of MaKayla Waldner’s breakaway attempt. Waldner came into the match as Mississippi State’s leading scorer with five goals on the season. She headed home her sixth goal of the campaign with just 4:29 to play to force extra time and earn her side a point.

“One of the great parts of our league is how hard everyone competes,” Lee said. “I thought today we took our foot off the gas when it was 2-1, and in the SEC it’s not enough. We are reliant on our seniors. For them to bring it themselves, when push comes to shove they have to carry the day. There’s a learning curve for some of the younger kids, and this should be a learning experience for our team.”

The Tigers are back in action Friday night as they travel to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats in a match scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network+. They return to Baton Rouge on Thursday, Oct. 5, for a home match against the Georgia Bulldogs that is set to kick off at 6 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium.

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