FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Mississippi State took a valiant fight to Arkansas Sunday afternoon in Fayetteville, but in a physical defensive contest, an Ashleigh Ellenwood 50th-minute goal proved the difference as the Razorbacks escaped with a 1-0 win.
Led by senior co-captain Morganne Grimes, MSU’s back line held an Arkansas squad that entered Sunday averaging 14 shots per game to nine.
Unfortunately for State, Ellenwood delivered the winner four minutes into the second half, netting a shot from distance to the top shelf, just past the out-stretched hands of Bulldog senior goalie CJ Winship.
The setback dropped MSU to 3-9 overall and 0-5 in SEC play. Arkansas improved to 9-4 on the year, 2-3 in conference action.
Neither squad was able to create many scoring opportunities, as the teams combined for just 15 shots and three on-goal opportunities.
“It was a very tight, physical contest that could have gone either way. Arkansas is a tough team that plays very direct and is good on the set pieces, but I thought we did well defending them,” head coach Aaron Gordon said. “Morganne Grimes was terrific today. She played very hard and did a good job directing our back line. Arkansas did a good job of keeping (Elisabeth) Sullivan in check. Some other players stepped up and got some chances, but we just weren’t able to get the final ball in. I thought we played as well as we could play. It was a tight game that could have gone either way, and I’m proud of our team for they way we competed today.”
State created six shots in the match, but was unable to test UA goalie Taylor Erwin outside a Shelby Jordan attempt to open the match.
The Bulldogs created all five of their first-half attempts in the opening 10 minutes, but managed to hold Arkansas without a shot on frame in three opening-half attempts.
Arkansas applied the attacking pressure to open the second half. After Allie Tripp missed an attempt wide, Ellenwood claimed a loose ball on the ensuing goal kick and fired a shot that deflected off the underside of the crossbar and over the line for the winner.
Erwin was unable to punch clear a Bulldog free kick minutes after the goal, but the Razorbacks managed to clear the danger before a pair of State players in the area could get the final touch.
Moments later, State sent a cross into the Razorback 6-yard box, but an Arkansas defender managed to knock it clear in the scrum before a Bulldog could direct it toward goal.
Both keepers avoided danger in the final half of the match as they decided to come out for challenges at the edge of their 18-yard boxes.
First, a Bulldog defender managed to clear the ball away before Jeriann Okoro could get a look toward the open net. State countered and Annebel ten Broeke beat Erwin toward the end line, but her cross was blocked away for a corner kick.
Winship kept MSU a goal back with her lone save of the match. The Razorbacks served a ball to Evan Palmer in front of the MSU goal, but Winship managed to dive and corral the ball in the collision with Palmer.
Mississippi State was out-shot 9-6 in the contest, with freshman Kayla Puzas’ two attempts leading the way.
Winship and Erwin recorded one save each.
State returns home Friday, hosting No. 8 Florida in a 7 p.m. kickoff at the MSU Soccer Field. The Bulldogs enjoy the season’s final open date Sunday before heading to Georgia.
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