STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State put in a spirited effort in front of a school record-tying crowd of 875, but a roster depleted by injuries to four starters hampered the Bulldogs down the stretch as Furman claimed a 4-0 win in the opening game of the Bulldog Classic.
Friday’s MSU Soccer Field crowd tied the record set against Ole Miss in 2010, and Aaron Gordon's squad responded with a tough, physical effort. After going to half 0-0, State’s depleted roster was unable to overcome two early second-half goals from Stephanie DeVita, the 2012 Southern Conference Player and Freshman of the Year.
Mississippi State fell to 2-4 with the setback, while Furman improved to 3-2.
“First, I want to thank all of the fans that came out and supported us tonight,” Gordon said. “It was a great crowd, and I thought our team really fed off the excitement of being back at home.
“I thought we came out and played hard in the opening half. It was a great first half that saw both teams create some scoring chances,” Gordon said. “Unfortunately having four starters out of the lineup hurt us, and we lost our legs in the second half. We had some young players step in and give us some minutes, and hopefully that will help us as we get on into the season.”
Both teams created some chances in opening half, but neither squad was able to capitalize on seven combined on-goal opportunities.
Furman came out pressuring on offense in the early going, with Kristen Baker and DeVita each having two shots denied by CJ Winship in the opening 14 minutes.
The Paladins missed another scoring chance in the 17th minute as Ali Simpson headed a corner that banged off the crossbar.
In the 29th minute, Halee Heltsley made a run from the left side and hit a shot that Furman keeper Rose Hull just managed to deflect around the far post.
Elisabeth Sullivan was unable to break the deadlock with shots in the 39th and 43rd minutes, and the squads took the 0-0 score to halftime.
Winship stopped a Jamie Alexander shot early in the second half, but moments later DeVita broke the deadlock as she worked right past the MSU defense and put a ball low past Winship just inside the near post.
Heltsley had a shot stopped by Maggie Grisell in the 63rd minute, and the Paladins countered seven minutes later as DeVita took a cross from the right side and put it into the far side of the net.
Sullivan tried to cut into the two-goal deficit, but Grisell turned back her 70th-minute strike with one of her six second-half saves.
Alyssa Althoff headed in a corner kick in the 72nd minute to make it 3-0, and Sheehan Delaney capped the scoring on a breakaway with six seconds remaining.
Furman took a 23-17 shots advantage, but the two squads tied with nine on-goal opportunities each.
paced State with nine shots, six of those coming on target.
Winship ended the night with five saves, while Paladin starter Rose Hull made three stops before giving way to Grisell.
Mississippi State wraps the pre-SEC slate Sunday, hosting Jackson State at 1 p.m. in the Bulldog Classic finale. The first 100 fans receive free ice cream as part of Sundae Sunday, and fathers are encouraged to bring their daughters to the first Daddy-Daughter Day.
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