STARKVILLE, Miss. – Senior Elisabeth Sullivan picked up where she left off in 2012, scoring in the fourth minute as Mississippi State opened the Aaron Gordon era with a 1-1 tie against South Florida in front of a crowd of 1,056 at the MSU Soccer Field.
“It was a good performance after two weeks of two-a-days. You learn a lot about your team during training camp, but you really don’t learn everything about them until you play a real game,” Gordon said. “I have a lot of respect for South Florida and their coaches because they are on the fringe of being an NCAA Tournament team every year. We didn’t win, but the real win is coming out with no injuries and learning more about our team.”
Sullivan scored the go-ahead goal 3:02 after the opening whistle. Freshman Jamila Coner directed a pass out wide to sophomore Shelby Jordan, and she served a ball to the middle of the 18 that Sullivan buried past USF starting keeper Christiane Endler.
“I thought we performed well. We’ve been working really hard in preseason and had to play a tough game against a good South Florida team,” Sullivan said. “We have some things to work on, but I thought we played well.”
The Bulls immediately tried to answer, but junior CJ Winship made two of her five saves on back-to-back attempts from Sarah Miller and Demi Stokes.
“I thought we came out with a solid performance, especially after being in camp for only nine days. To come out and have the performance we had tonight without the freshest of legs really speaks volumes about what this team has and is going to have in the future,” Winship said.
State ended the opening half with six stops as Jordan headed away another USF scoring opportunity to give MSU the one-goal lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs made the lead hold until the 63rd minute when Sharla Passariello, the Bulls’ top scorer from a season ago, beat freshman Meara Johnson on a 1-v-1 opportunity.
Johnson responded, however, keeping the draw intact as she got her right foot on a Sarah Miller 1-v-1 chance minutes into the lone overtime period. The Brampton, Ontario, native had another sensational stop on a Passariello attempt in the 87th minute.
“At first I was nervous, but going through the nine-day camp and working with CJ and (volunteer assistant coach) Robbie Kroger really got me prepared for it,” Johnson said. “Everything we worked on all week happened in the game, and I felt really prepared.”
Mississippi State had its chances to convert in the second half, but backup keeper Sydney Drinkwater answered with four stops, three of those coming off the foot of Sullivan.
The two squads played fairly equal soccer, with USF claiming a slim 22-18 edge in shot opportunities. The teams earned five corner kicks each.
Sullivan, a second team All-SEC selection last season, paced the Dawgs with seven shot attempts, including four on-target chances.
State heads to Mobile, Ala., on Friday to open the regular season against South Alabama. The Bulldogs begin the home slate next Sunday, challenging Arkansas State in a 1 p.m. opening kick. Admission to all games at the MSU Soccer Field is free.
South Florida (0-0-0) vs. Mississippi State (0-0-0)
Date: Aug 16, 2013 Attendance: 1056
Goals by period 1 2 OT Tot
South Florida....... 0 1 0 - 1
Mississippi State... 1 0 0 - 1
1. 3:02 MSU Elisabeth Sullivan (Shelby Jordan;Jamila Coner) - Cross from right shot in from the middle of the box
2. 62:32 USF Passariello, Sharla (Stokes, Demi) - Pass through the defense and shot past the keeper at the far post
Shots: South Florida 22, Mississippi State 18
Saves: South Florida 6 (Drinkwater, Sydney 6), Mississippi State 8
(Meara Johnson 2; CJ Winship 5; 1)