The Southern Miss women’s soccer team played their final two home games of the season against East Carolina (7-8-3, 4-4-1) and Old Dominion (1-12-3, 1-6-2).
The ECU Pirates defeated the Eagles 1-0 with a late goal in the 67th minute. The Eagles outshot the Pirates 22-15 and remained aggressive throughout the entire game, creating several opportunities to score, but their efforts yielded no results.
“I thought we played a solid game,” head coach Mohammed El-Zare said. “We had our chances and gave ourselves opportunities to capitalize but we were unable to do so. It just came down to the fact that East Carolina capitalized on one of their chances.”
Freshman goalkeeper Brittany Taylor continued to perform well, recording 10 saves and a single goal against in the ECU game. Three of those saves were the result of an aggressive ECU offense trying to put the ball in the net within a 15-second span.
“Our girls are fighters,” El-Zare said of his team on Friday, Oct. 25. “They will always give their best no matter the circumstances. We did not win today but we believe that we will have our time. Tomorrow is another day.”
USM’s time did come on Sunday, Oct. 27, against Old Dominion. The Eagles won in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 overtime win. Senior defender Danielle Beatty scored the game-winning goal in the 100th minute of the match from 20 yards out, off an assist by Danica Roberts.
It was an emotional game for the Golden Eagles for a number of reasons. Sunday was Senior Day, celebrating the team’s talented ten seniors who were key to USM’s successes over the years. Those seniors are Danica Roberts, Jessica Bartlett, Danielle Beatty, Kimberly Belmont, Chelsea Cruthirds, Natasha Lombardo, Shelbi Moeller, Tara Nay, Mischa Tice and Zoe Vanderboegh.
The most emotional moment of the game was how it all began. Both teams honored senior forward Cruthirds, who was temporarily hospitalized last weekend after a serious spine injury, by allowing her to officially kick the ball into play. A monarch defender quickly kicked the ball out of bounds to let freshman Adriana Garcia to sub in for Cruthirds.
“More than just getting the chance to go out there, it was nice having my whole team with me, and my family and all the other seniors’ families and the coaching staff here with me,” Cruthirds said after the game. “It wasn’t just important to me. I could tell it was important to everyone. This is one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever had … I wouldn’t change anything about my last four years.”
Garcia, who is normally a defender but played forward due to injuries, scored a pair of first-half goals to give Southern Miss a 2-0 lead. She scored off assists from Brooke Hendrix and Roberts.
In the second half, however, the Monarchs’ Melanie Oakes and Grace Haverly scored unassisted goals to tie the game. USM’s Roberts then took a Mary Margaret Underwood assist and put it into the back of the net for a 3-2 lead in the 78th minute.
Old Dominion tied the game in the 80th minute of the game, sending it into another USM overtime. With just 28 seconds left in that overtime, Roberts sent an assist to Beatty, who planted it into the net for a 4-3 Golden Eagle win.
“There was (a chance) earlier in the match that I wasn’t able to capitalize on,” Beatty said of the winning goal. “I told myself that I would get the next one. I didn’t realize that was how it was going to happen. That was my favorite shot back in high school so I had confidence in my ability to make it.”
“We don’t have the best record and we aren’t at the top of our conference, but we still came out and got a win,” Cruthirds said.
Coach El-Zare again emphasized how proud he is of his team, especially of how the seniors performed.
“I can’t say enough about these seniors,” El-Zare said. “They came out and played with a purpose today.”
USM’s final game will be played in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Oct. 31.