BATON ROUGE – All-American midfielder Malorie Rutledge netted a hat trick, including two goals in the first seven minutes of the match, to lead the 10th-ranked LSU soccer team to an easy 7-0 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday to advance to Sunday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament at the LSU Soccer Complex.
“We’re pleased with the result,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “We’re pleased with the way we played, and we’re pleased that we were able to rotate so many players throughout the game.”
Hosting a regional for the first time in program history, the Tigers wasted no time in opening the scoring as Rutledge took a pass from Courtney Alexander and rifled a shot past Arkansas-Pine Bluff goalkeeper Chelsea Klein just 2:06 into the contest.
Rutledge, the two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Hermann Trophy candidate, turned up the pressure on the Golden Lions’ back line and scored her second goal of the match in the seventh minute with a shot from eight yards on a perfect centering pass by senior Melissa Clarke.
The Tigers outshot their opposition by a 16-0 margin in the first half and earned 12 corner kicks while limiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff without a shot or a corner kick. Klein recovered from the two early goals to make nine saves in the period and close out the first half with a 2-0 deficit.
“One of our goals was to try to go wide and get on the end of services when they packed the box. I think we executed that in the first half,” Rutledge said. “We really wanted to keep pushing and get that third goal before halftime, but unfortunately for us we were not able to do that. We came back out in the second half and were able to put it away.”
LSU came out firing once more in the second half and quickly put the game out of reach and pick up its second NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
Rutledge completed the hat trick just five minutes into the second half when she blistered a strike from just outside the penalty area that found the net inside the right post.
The hat trick was the second of Rutledge’s All-America career and LSU’s second hat trick of the season. Freshman forward Carlie Banks also scored a hat trick in the Tigers’ dominating 6-0 win over then No. 8-ranked Georgia in their SEC opener back on Sept. 25.
Midfielder Kellie Murphy accounted for LSU’s next two goals, finishing a pass from Carlie Banks and then connecting on a header following a well-placed cross from Alexander. The two goals resulted in a goalkeeper change for the Golden Lions, but just 30 seconds later Alexander notched a goal of her own while firing a strike from the top of the box that went under the legs of backup goalkeeper Bre-Ann Laypoole.
The scoring concluded with a goal from senior striker Rachel Yepez, who dribbled through the Arkansas-Pine Bluff defense fired a right-footed shot from 12 yards out that gave LSU its highest goal total of the season.
“As we started rotating substitutions in the first half, our level of play dropped off,” Lee said. “We had a little chat at halftime, and I thought we were much better in the second half. Each time we brought on a sub they raised the level of play rather than keeping it the same.”
LSU was relentless on the offensive end through the match while attempting 32 shots and scoring on seven of 21 shots on goal. The Tigers also attempted 16 corner kicks on the night.
But the Tigers’ back line was equally as impressive while holding Arkansas-Pine Bluff without a shot or a corner kick in 90 minutes of action. The ability to relax with facing a consistent attack in the match allowed the defense to rest for Sunday’s second-round match with Texas A&M.
“It helped us a lot,” said senior defender Chelsea Potts. “I know a lot of the backs didn’t actually get subbed out but we still got to rest when we were on the field. We weren’t running as much. It was good rest for all of us.”
With the win, LSU (15-4-4) tied a school single-season record with its 15th victory of the season. It also marked the 50th win in the careers of LSU’s senior class, a fitting milestone for a class that has transformed the LSU program into a championship contender during its four seasons in Baton Rouge. No other senior class has won more than 44 games during its tenure.
LSU will take on Texas A&M in the second round at 1 p.m. Sunday at the LSU Soccer Complex. The Aggies earned a spot in the second round by defeating Memphis 3-1 Friday afternoon.
Match 1 Recap:
BATON ROUGE – The 22nd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies are the first team to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the Baton Rouge Regional after defeating Memphis in Friday’s first round by a 3-1 score at the LSU Soccer Complex.
The Aggies (15-6-2) struck first just 5:22 into the match when Whitney Hooper, a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection, dribbled into the box from the right flank and advanced the ball deep into the penalty area. Hooper left a pass for Alyssa Mautz, who finished with a shot from 10 yards.
The Aggies added a second goal five minutes later when Hooper dribbled into the box, forcing Memphis goalkeeper Elis Kuhar-Pitters to come off her line. After cutting towards the goal, Hooper chipped a lofty shot from 12 yards out that dropped in behind the Tigers’ goalkeeper.
Memphis (16-7-0) responded with 28:30 left in the first half when Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year Ashley Berra gained possession just outside the penalty area and rifled a low shot just inside the far post that easily beat Texas A&M goalkeeper Kelly Dyer.
However, Hooper put the game out of reach with her second goal of the night 25 minutes into the match after easily dribbling through the Tigers’ back line and sliding the ball past Kuhar-Pitters at point-blank range.
From that point, the teams settled into a defensive back-and-forth exchange that yielded few quality scoring chances. Memphis outshot the Aggies by a 10-9 count in the match with a narrow 5-4 edge in shots on goal. Each side earned two corner kicks in the match.
The Aggies advance to face the winner of tonight’s matchup between LSU and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Sunday’s second-round matchup will take place at the LSU Soccer Complex at 1 p.m. CST.