Soccer Defeats Georgia with Thomas' Late Winner
BATON ROUGE – Alex Thomas scored her team-leading seventh goal of the season with a one-time finish off the give-and-go with Lucy Parker in the 87th minute to hand the Tigers their first win in SEC play in 2017 as the hosts came away 2-1 winners over Georgia in Thursday’s match at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
The sides struggled to gain an edge in the closing stages before Thomas won possession near the touchline at midfield at and went to work with Parker through the left side of the Georgia defense.
Thomas squared to Parker standing near the center circle and continued her run into the box as Parker took out three Bulldog defenders with the return pass finding her teammate alone in the right side of the penalty area. Thomas was on target once again as her right-footed finish inside the near post from 12 yards out gave the Tigers (8-2-2, 1-2-2 SEC) the three points with their first SEC win of the season.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Thomas said of the team getting off the mark with its first conference win of the season. “We’ve been doing well all season. We just haven’t beaten an SEC team so we were pushing for that first win and we got it. We deserved it tonight. We need more wins, and this is the first step. Now, we just have to worry about one game at a time. Ole Miss is all we have to worry about right now. We have to take that on and from there we can think about the next game.”
Thomas has already comfortably surpassed her previous season-high of two goals scored during her freshman season in 2015 while emerging as one of the SEC’s most feared attackers during the 2017 campaign.
“It’s the last five minutes or so, so we knew we had to make something happen,” Thomas said of the buildup to her match-winning goal. “I saw Lucy (Parker) and passed it to her and just took off. I knew she was going to find me again, and all I had to do was hit it one-time. It felt great seeing that ball hit the back of the net.”
Parker opened the scoring with her third goal of the season in the 35th minute when her flicked header found the side netting inside the far post on Marlena Cutura’s free kick at the SEC logo on the far side of the field. LSU’s lead was short-lived as Daria Stan drew Georgia level just 72 seconds later from the penalty spot after the Tigers were whistled for a handball in the box.
Parker nearly reclaimed the lead for the hosts in the 42nd minute when she forced a diving save from Bulldog goalkeeper Louise Hogrell with her curling free kick from 20 yards. Nicole Howard and Zoe Higgins also came close to opening the scoring in the first five minutes of the match, while sophomore Ellie Weber was presented a chance in the 43rd minute after coming on late in the first half.
With the win, the Tigers closed the gap on Georgia (4-8-1, 0-5) to 7-10-2 in 19 matches played in the series dating back to the 1996 season while running their record to 6-3-1 against the Bulldogs in Baton Rouge.
“It feels good. The girls have put in a great effort all year. We have a lot of characteristics that would incline us to be successful, and it was good to get three points for sure,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee after the win. “These SEC games are so tight. Early in the season we won quite a few non-conference games in late-game situations like tonight. We have a group that we feel like are high-character kids. When given the opportunity they will give their best effort and keep fighting through the final whistle.”
The Tigers look to take their momentum to Oxford, Mississippi, on Sunday afternoon where they will face the 24th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels in a match that is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. CT on the SEC Network+. They return home next week to host Arkansas on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT and 10th-ranked Central Florida on Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. at the LSU Soccer Stadium.