NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After playing to a 1-1 draw in regulation, the Tigers were rewarded for their offensive pressure when sophomore Fernanda Pina flicked home the game-winning Golden Goal on a free kick by senior Alex Ramsey in the 95th minute as they took home a 2-1 overtime win over Vanderbilt in their SEC opener on Friday night.
Following a foul by the Commodores near the touchline on the near side of the pitch, a host of Tigers flooded the penalty area as Ramsey stepped up to the ball to take the ensuing free kick.
Ramsey’s floated ball found Pina’s head inside the six-yard box as the Mexican international flicked home the game-winner at the 94:30 mark of the first overtime period to hand the Tigers (5-3-1, 1-0 SEC) a deserved 2-1 win over the Commodores (3-4-2, 0-1) on Saturday night while wrapping up the opening weekend of SEC play at the VU Soccer Complex.
Pina netted her team-leading fourth goal of the season as she has already matched her single-season career high of four goals set during her freshman season a year ago.
“I thought, ‘This is my opportunity or the team’s opportunity to win it,’ and it came right to my head and I just flicked it in,” Pina said of her game-winning goal. “Our four backs were amazing tonight, and then we were creating a lot of chances. We were probably unlucky not to finish them. It’s a really big win for our team. It’s one of the best games we’ve played all season. We deserved to win tonight.”
The Tigers won their SEC opener for the fifth time in seven seasons while improving to 6-3-1 against the Commodores in the nine seasons under head coach Brian Lee and 7-9-2 in the all-time series. The Tigers also ran their winning streak to two-straight matches against Vanderbilt following a 1-0 double overtime victory in Baton Rouge a year ago.
LSU turned in its highest offensive output of the season with 28 total shots and 15 shots on goal during the match, while Vanderbilt managed 16 shots and just two shots on goal in nearly 95 minutes of action. LSU even doubled up the home side with an 8-4 advantage in corner kicks on the night.
It marked the most shots and shots on goal by the Tigers against an SEC opponent since firing 30 total shots and 15 shots on goal in a 6-2 road win at Mississippi State on Oct. 17, 2010.
“I thought we played really well tonight, as good as we’ve played all year,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “Our attacking movement in the game was the best it’s been all season. Megan Lee back healthy makes such a big difference on our team in that regard. We really rolled up our sleeves and fought from start to finish. It was a great team effort to come away with a win in our SEC opener.”
The Tigers appeared to take the lead in the 24th minute when freshman striker Summer Clarke slipped behind one of the Vanderbilt center backs in the penalty area and slotted her shot between the legs of Vanderbilt goalkeeper Olivia Liebman and into the back of the net. But the linesman raised his flag for offside as fellow freshman Emma Fletcher played the through ball to Clarke.
Sophomore Heather Magee left no doubt three minutes later when she opened her account for the 2013 season while heading home her first goal of the season on a corner kick by Fletcher.
While taking the corner kick from the left corner flag, Fletcher’s service found the head of sophomore defender Gracie Campbell standing near the top of the box. Campbell played the ball back into the box where she found Magee in space near the right post for a free header into the back of the net to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute. The Tigers were unable to add to their lead into the halftime break.
With the visitors turning up the offensive pressure into the second half, the Commodores found an equalizer against the run of play in the 51st minute with a header from freshman striker Simone Charley.
Sophomore forward Jamie Kator led the attack down the right side while dribbling to the edge of the penalty area where she played a cross to Charley streaking into the middle of the area. Charley leaped high into the air above an LSU defender and floated a header into the net to draw the Commodores level at 1-1 at the 50:16 mark.
Despite conceding the equalizer, LSU’s freshman trio of Clarke, Fletcher and Megan Lee continued to lead the attack for the Tigers as they pressed for the go-ahead goal deep into the second half.
Clarke gave the Tigers their two best opportunities to take the lead in regulation with shots from distance that were kept out of the net on two diving saves by Liebman. In the 72nd minute, she led the charge down the right flank before cutting back across the top of the box and firing a left-footed strike that seemed destined to find the net inside the left post before Liebman deflected it out of play with a fingertip save. Clarke struck back in the 79th minute with a right-footed blast from the top of the box that was heading inside the right post that was again denied by Liebman diving to her left.
Clarke led the way with seven shots on the night, including those two shots on goal, while Lee fired six shots and three shots on goal and Fletcher finished with six shots and a team-best four shots on goal on the night.
With their SEC opener now in the books, the Tigers return to Baton Rouge next weekend to play host to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Friday at 7 p.m. CT and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. at the LSU Soccer Stadium. It marks their return home for the first time since facing No. 6-ranked BYU back on Monday, Sept. 2.