INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Senior Summer Clarke opened the scoring with her first goal of the season in the 27th minute and junior Jorian Baucom secured the victory with her fourth of the year in the 88th minute as LSU Soccer took home the Hoosier Challenge Cup title with a 2-1 win over Butler on Sunday at Varsity Field.
The Tigers (3-3) took down the reigning Big East Champion Bulldogs (3-2-1) to clinch the Hoosier Challenge Cup title with six points after also blitzing Indiana, 3-0, in their opening match Friday afternoon.
The Championship Match appeared destined for overtime with neither team seizing the initiative in the final minutes until Baucom found herself in position to finish Alex Thomas’ end-line cross into the back of the net with just 2 minutes, 28 seconds left on the clock and give the visitors a late 2-1 lead. The Tigers ran out the final minutes to win their second on the spin and even their record to 3-3 on the season.
Thomas fought for possession in midfield after Debbie Hahn’s initial free kick was cleared by the Butler defense. Thomas battled her defender to the end line where she lofted a cross to the edge of the six-yard box at the feet of Baucom, who poked home the winner in the 88th minute for her fourth goal of the season all coming in her last three appearances.
Sunday’s winner was also the third of the weekend for LSU’s Frist-Team All-SEC striker as she netted the winner in the 34th minute and converted a penalty in the 50th minute to complete the scoring against Indiana.
“Alex really fought to get on the end of that ball and took her player on and got a cross off,” Baucom said. “One of the Butler defenders didn’t clear it, and I was just waiting to frame it. Luckily I was able to finish it off at that point. It was just a scrap for whoever could get a foot on it and put it in the net.”
Baucom nearly broke the deadlock on 18 minutes when she received possession at the top of the penalty box, turned her defender and fired a right-footed strike from the penalty spot into the awaiting arms of Butler goalkeeper Hannah Luedtke. She would have to wait another 70 minutes to bag her fourth goal of the campaign.
Clarke would find the breakthrough with her first goal of the season less than 10 minutes later with a simple finish from the top of the six-yard box following Nicole Howard’s cross into the box. Baucom found herself in the attack once again down the right flank and played Howard into space in the right side of the penalty area. Howard did well to stay on her feet under the challenge of Butler’s recovering defender and crossed ahead to Clarke for a half-volley finish inside the left post at the 26:09 mark.
“It was nice. Nicole came across and played a really good ball through. I think it took a deflection and floated in the air for a second. I just thought, ‘Let me try this half-volley and see if it works,’” Clarke said. “It did, so it was nice to get the jitters out and get my first goal under my belt. It was great to go on and finish it off from there and get the win.”
LSU’s 1-0 lead was short-lived as the Bulldogs answered on the other end with junior defender Christy Chou heading home a corner kick by Serina Kashimoto for 1-1 just two minutes later in the 29th minute.
The Tigers nearly reclaimed the lead coming out of halftime when Howard again played Clarke into space for an open look that was deflected out for a corner kick by Luedtke in the 52nd minute. Howard was close again to her first career goal in the 68th minute when sent her defender the wrong way with a cutback into the box and fired inches wide of the left post from 10 yards.
“You can see we’re getting better with every game,” Clarke continued. “We’re cleaning up things we need to clean up, and you can tell that relationships between players are developing on the field game-to-game. It is kind of a new team, I’d say. We returned a good group of players, but there’s also some that are new and filling important spots for us. We’re forming those relationships and learning how to play with each other.”
The Tigers continue their four-game road swing next week with a trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they will battle Western Kentucky on Thursday with kickoff set for 7 p.m. CT at the WKU Soccer Complex. They will then travel to College Station, Texas, to take on nationally-ranked Texas A&M in their Southeastern Conference opener on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.