BATON ROUGE – Freshman striker Summer Clarke opened her account in the 37th minute with her first career goal while finishing a brilliant through ball by fellow freshman Emma Fletcher to guide the Tigers to a 1-0 shutout of Louisiana Tech in their 2013 season opener in front of 1,135 supporters on Friday night at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
The Tigers (1-0) remained unbeaten in two matches all-time against Louisiana Tech (0-1) while extending their home winning streak to three-straight games dating back to the 2012 season.
On a Tiger counter attack late in the first half, Fletcher pounced on a Lady Techster turnover in the midfield and split the two Louisiana Tech center backs with a precise through ball to Clarke streaking into the open into the penalty area. Clarke then took a touch in stride and fired a strike into the back of the net from inside the six-yard box for her first collegiate goal.
While assisting each other’s goals in a 4-1 victory over Nicholls State in their preseason exhibition match a week ago, Clarke and Fletcher are already forming a lethal combination for the Tigers in the attack. They posted 13 shots and five shots on goal between them with Clarke firing eight shots and two on frame and Fletcher totaling five shots and three on frame during the match.
The two Tiger rookies are products of the Vancouver Whitecaps Elite Girls’ program during their youth careers as Clarke hails from Richmond and Fletcher is from Victoria in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
“It was basically a perfect ball,” Clarke said of Fletcher’s through ball that freed her up for the goal. “I couldn’t miss it, so I just tried to place it I the corner. I thought the back line was really sharp today. They were really on point and were intercepting balls they were trying to play through. I thought we played a pretty good game. It was very fast-paced and competitive for our first game.”
Clarke’s breakthrough was all the Tigers needed as the LSU defense turned in a strong effort on the night, limiting Louisiana Tech to just seven total shots with two shots on goal in the match.
Senior goalkeeper Megan Kinneman was called into action in the 56th minute while making a leaping save on a bending ball from the right side of the pitch off the boot of Louisiana Tech striker Madison Doll. The keeper leaped across the face of goal and punched the ball out of the box with LSU taking possession going the other way.
Doll proved to be the greatest threat to the Tiger defense on the night as she finished with a team-leading four shots and both of her team’s shots on goal over the course of 90 minutes.
“Those are tough balls. We call those a shot-cross because she was out wide, and that angle is really difficult to hit it. I don’t know that she was necessarily aiming for a shot there. She might have been trying for a cross and mishit it,” Kinneman said of Doll’s effort in the 56th minute. “It’s great to come out here on a Friday night with a lot of fans and get the win.
“Everyone has been working hard, everyone wants to win and in this game we had to really grind it out in the end. I think we had good possession in the first half and set the tone. They were really pressing us here for the second half. I’m really glad that we were able to grind it out. It’s a good start for our team, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The final scoresheet showed the Tigers with a 21-7 advantage in total shots and an 8-2 edge in shots on goal while also leading by a 9-1 margin in corner kicks in the match.
“It’s college soccer, so if you’re up a goal in the last five or 10 minutes, there’s always going to be the other team pushing,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee of the final minutes of the match. “We’re a young team for this season. We were happy to seal it off in the end. Their pressure was really hard to break down. They kept the score line low and they pushed forward at the end to try and sneak a draw or win outright.”
The Tigers will return to the pitch on Tuesday as they welcome Louisiana-Monroe to Baton Rouge for a match that is set to kick off at 7 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium. The Tigers and Warhawks have squared off in four previous matches on the soccer pitch as LSU holds a 3-0-1 mark in the all-time series.