Soccer Blanks Ole Miss in SEC Home Opener, 3-0
BATON ROUGE – Junior All-SEC striker Jorian Baucom converted two penalty kicks on either side of halftime and junior midfielder Zoe Higgins put the match out of reach with her first career goal late in the second half to lead the LSU Tigers to a 3-0 shutout of Ole Miss in their SEC home opener Friday night at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
Baucom made it a perfect 4-for-4 from the penalty spot this season and finished the match with a team-leading six goals for the fall with conversions in the 30th and 70th minutes of play, while Higgins secured the points for the hosts with her first goal as an LSU Tiger when she headed home Marlena Cutura’s corner kick in the 77th minute of the second half.
The Tigers (5-4, 1-1 SEC) snapped a three game losing streak to the Rebels (4-5, 0-2) with their first win in the series since 2012 while taking a 10-9-4 advantage in 23 matches played between the two sides.
Friday’s win marked a return to winning ways for the Tigers as they picked up their fourth win in their last five outings in all competitions dating back to another 3-0 win at Indiana back on Sept. 2. They entered SEC play on the back of three-straight non-conference wins, including a 2-1 win at reigning Big East Champion Butler on Sept. 4 and a 1-0 win at Western Kentucky on Sept. 8.
“As we’ve been building early in the season, we’ve been confident that we have a good team. We’ve just needed to find the right mix of players, get into the flow of the season and get a little familiar with each other. We’ve had maybe five new kids in the lineup at any given time,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “We’re starting to gel a little bit. I think tonight is the best we’ve competed and the best we’ve played.”
The home side seized the initiative at the half-hour mark when Baucom drew a penalty with an incisive cutback in the right side of the area where she was hauled down by freshman defender Madison Meador for the Rebels. Baucom sent goalkeeper the wrong way on the ensuing spot kick and finished calmly to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Melissa Capocaccia was the victim of a lovely bit of individual skill from senior Summer Clarke midway through the second half as LSU’s All-SEC striker skipped past the Rebel defender near the end-line before dropping to the turf under an awkward challenge in the left side of the area. Baucom was true from the spot for the second time as she again got the best of Merritt for her sixth goal of the season in the 77th minute.
Baucom’s strike rate is impressive as she has now found the net six times in nine appearances this season. She remains LSU’s active career scoring leader with 29 goals scored in 51 career appearances as a Tiger.
“Every time I step up to take a PK, I have a certain routine I like to do. I just pick a spot and try to place it as best I can. There’s not any certain way I like to go,” Baucom explained. “We definitely had something to prove tonight coming back for our SEC home opener. We just came in with a mindset that we had to be aggressive, get into every tackle, win headers, get stuck into tackles.”
“The win means everything. I think we just need to take this momentum into Sunday, and just start thinking of it one game at a time. If we stay consistent with the way we played tonight, we can get a lot of wins.”
The match was beyond the Rebels’ reach in the 77th minute when freshman Jade Clarke won LSU’s fourth and final corner kick of the night with her run down the left flank. Cutura picked out Higgins near the top of the six-yard box for a thumping header into the back of the net for her first goal of the season and a commanding 3-0 lead.
“It was exciting, I finally got one,” Higgins said of scoring her first goal for the Tigers. “Marlena does a great job of putting those corner kicks right in the danger zone. We feel like all we have to do is step out and get our head on it, and it’s probably going in. That’s all I really had to do. We came out strong and just put the game away like we hoped to in the second half. It’s SEC play, so we know we have to buckle down.”
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Caroline Brockmeier was steady once again in defense as she saved all four shots on target she faced from the Rebels in the 90 minutes for her fourth clean sheet of the season.
The Tigers return to non-conference play on Sunday afternoon when they welcome Lamar to the LSU Soccer Stadium for a match that is set to kick off at 1 p.m. CT on the SEC Network+. They will head back on the road next week to face 10th-ranked South Carolina on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT before a trip to Vanderbilt next Sunday, Sept. 25, with kickoff set for 1 p.m.