STARKVILLE — Maddy Anderson waited two months for this moment.
She almost never got the chance.
But the Mississippi State goalkeeper made the most out of a rare opportunity Thursday night when her team sorely needed it.
Pressed into surprise service on the other end of the field, Anderson drove home a penalty kick in the 78th minute to give MSU (5-8-3, 3-6-1 Southeastern Conference) a 3-2 win over No. 16 Ole Miss (11-4-3, 6-3-1 SEC) in the Magnolia Cup rivalry match in Starkville, the Bulldogs’ second straight victory over the Rebels.
“If ever you wanted somebody on that ball, it was Maddy Anderson even though she’s our goalkeeper,” Mississippi State coach James Armstrong said. “It was great composure, great finish and shows everything that she’s all about.”
Anderson’s rocket past counterpart Ashley Orkus and into the Rebels’ goal completed a comeback after the Bulldogs fell behind in the 52nd minute when Mo O’Connor rocketed a long shot over the head of Anderson — caught out of position — and into the goal.
But senior Monigo Karnley, playing in her final home match, curled a shot from the right side of the box into the net in the 61st minute to equalize the score at two goals apiece.
“I’ve been trying to get one for a long time,” Karnley said. “I’m just glad that it came tonight of all nights.”
And it was Karnley who drew the foul by Orkus in the box in the 77th minute, setting up a penalty kick with so much riding on it.
The last time the Bulldogs found themselves in the same situation was Sept. 2 at Minnesota, when forward Onyi Echegini’s PK was saved in the 28th minute of an eventual scoreless tie.
But this time, Anderson — who took penalties for the Clear Falls (Texas) High School team and worked on them all fall — got her shot. Assistant Nick Zimmerman motioned for the keeper to come on up and try her hand — or, rather, her foot.
“I’m so thankful the coaches let me take it,” Anderson said. “I’ve been practicing for weeks and just waiting for my turn.”
Not only did she convert, but she blasted her shot into the right side of the goal as Orkus laid out in the opposite direction. Anderson said being a goalkeeper helped her guess which side the Rebels’ keeper would choose.
“I had an idea of where she was going to dive to, and I kind of knew she wouldn’t go my way,” Anderson said.
Her goal gave the Bulldogs the lead with under 15 minutes to go, and the Rebels didn’t manage a shot the rest of the way. A Mississippi State team that was “flying all week in training” because of its excitement for Thursday’s match had completed its comeback.
“We had no doubt we were going to get 100 percent out of this group tonight, and they weren’t going to back down at any point — whether they were up a goal or down a goal,” Armstrong said.
The Bulldogs were ahead for nearly 30 minutes in the first half after senior Hailey Farrington-Bentil knocked home a goal in the fifth minute. Karnley assisted on that one, having an impact in all three and furthering the presence of the team’s six departing seniors in the match.
Besides Karnley and Farrington-Bentil, Ky Burroughs, Niah Johnson, Miranda Carrasco and Esmeralda Figueroa also played their final regular-season matches.
“We had senior night tonight, and it was very fitting that two seniors scored tonight,” Armstrong said. “Even the ones who didn’t score had a tremendous game, and they had leadership throughout the game.”
That leadership steadied the Bulldogs when Ole Miss’ Channing Foster equalized with a brilliant strike in the 33rd minute, celebrating with four impressive backflips on the cold, wet grass.
O’Connor’s second-half goal put the Rebels ahead for the first time, but the Bulldogs stayed “relentless,” leading to Karnley’s equalizer less than 10 minutes later.
“We just put in the second one to tie it up, and then I knew we had it from there,” Anderson said.
That was, of course, due in no small part to the Bulldogs’ keeper’s own heroics. Because of Anderson, the Magnolia Cup will remain in Starkville for another year.
“It’s not going anywhere,” Karnley said. “It’s here to stay.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.