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Soccer Wraps Spring With 1-0 Setback To Alabama

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Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

STARKVILLE, Miss. – A short-manned Mississippi State soccer team battled a veteran Alabama squad tough for 90 minutes Thursday, but a second-period goal proved the difference as the Crimson Tide escaped Starkville with a 1-0 win.

The Bulldogs wrapped a stellar spring slate that saw the youthful squad gain valuable experience heading into fall camp.

“Alabama was a good side, but I thought we played really well in the first 30 minutes, maybe the best we have played all spring,” head coach Aaron Gordon said. “We played 10 good minutes the second 30 and really battled the last 30 minutes considering we have been hampered by injuries this spring.”

Despite combining for five on-goal opportunities in the first 30-minute period, neither squad was able to break through with a goal.

Freshman Morgan Ferrara created a pair of chances, one off a flick midway through the period and a left-footed shot with 11 minutes left.

After fighting off a corner early in the second, MSU answered and worked the ball into the Alabama area. Ferrara found Shannen Jainudeen for a shot that was blocked, and Abby Phillips’ follow-up attempt was deflected wide of target.

Ferrara appeared to break the scoreless tie with 17 minutes left in the second period, but the offside flag kept the game 0-0.

“We had some good performances tonight. Morgan Ferrara continues to be dangerous when she gets the ball in the final third, and Ashliegh Badley was great in the back as basically a high school senior going against one of the best players in our league in Pia Rijsdijk. I thought there was a lot of good to come out of tonight’s game against a quality SEC foe,” Gordon said.

Alabama broke through in the 51st minute as Jordan Meier found a service into the box and punched it past MSU goalie Meara Johnson.

MSU nearly got the equalizer off a Ferrara free kick with just over three minutes to go in the second. The Tampa, Fla., native ripped a shot toward the lower part of the near post, but UA reserve keeper Emily Rusk made the save to preserve the 1-0 advantage.

Moments later the Bulldogs served a ball in front of goal, but Rusk managed to tip it away before Jainudeen could get a head on the ball.

State’s best chance of the final period came with just over six minutes remaining. A foul gave the Dawgs a free kick just left of the Alabama 18-yard box. Ferrara put a pass toward the near post, but an Alabama defender managed to deflect the ball away before Jainudeen could hit it.

The Bulldogs wrap a spring slate that saw Ferrara lead the way with four goals, while the rising senior Jainudeen added three strikes.

“The team is young and it gets a lot younger when report day comes, but we’ve had some real growth with some players. Jamila Coner has made big strides since last season and has been a real bright spot for us this spring,” Gordon said. “Morgan Ferrara and Ashliegh Badley have been really good as mid-year enrollees, and Shelby Jordan continues to improve as a right back both defensively and getting forward on offense.

“Every player on the team has made strides this spring. We addressed certain things each of them needs to work on and they have done their part to get better. That’s what the spring is all about.”

Thursday’s game opened MSU’s annual Super Bulldog Weekend. Times and ticket information for the remainder of the weekend’s events can be found on the official 2014 Super Bulldog Weekend web page, www.hailstate.com/sbw.

Fans can keep up with the Bulldog soccer team on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by searching “HailStateSOC.”
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