STARKVILLE — Mississippi State had just been awarded a penalty after a handball called inside the 18-yard box in the 75th minute of Sunday’s match against Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs, who had trailed 1-0, despite dominating possession, shots and scoring chances, had just tied it up on Hannah Johnson’s first collegiate goal in the 62nd minute.
MSU called upon goalkeeper Maddy Anderson to take the penalty just like in last year’s thrilling victory over Ole Miss. However, Anderson pulled her shot and missed it.
But MSU, which continued to press, broke through in the 82nd minute as Haley McWhirter launched one just outside of the outstretched arms of LA Tech goalkeeper Sydnee Korchak into the top-right corner for the game-winner as the Bulldogs defeated the Lady Techsters, 2-1.
“Miranda threw it in quickly to me and I was just able to beat the player and get that shot off,” McWhirter said. “There was some movement up top that freed up in the box for me to be able to get the shot off.”
After a first half where the Bulldogs (4-0-2) dominated all facets of the match with 54 percent possession, eight shots — three of which were on goal — and five corners, it was LA Tech who had a 1-0 lead at the half.
They needed just one shot and one scoring chance to catch Anderson and MSU’s back line off guard to score on a counterattack in the 23rd minute.
Mississippi State kept generating chances that half, but it wasn’t until Johnson’s goal in the 62nd minute that MSU finally had something to show for its continued pressure in LA Tech’s half of the field.
“Keeping possession, the amount of completed passes we had, I think we just used that to build on and kept the momentum rolling,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s goal was long awaited, having taken until her sophomore year to net her first goal in an MSU uniform. She was wide open in front of goal off a beautiful cross from freshman Alivia Buxton, and with that extra space, it looked like a done deal from the start.
It seems like any place you turn, the youth of this MSU team continues to play a massive role, and that was furthered Sunday with Johnson’s goal.
That blend that head coach James Armstrong has talked about previously of youth and experience also came into play as MSU kept its unbeaten record so far in the regular season.
The second half felt especially anxious to keep that unbeaten run of form as the Bulldogs, for the second time in a week, experienced adversity in a match, and they were able to overcome it on this occasion.
“I said in my interviews this week that we hadn’t faced adversity yet,” Armstrong said. “Today, we faced adversity, 1-0 down against a team that was being very smart with their game management, but the girls stuck to the game plan and that showed the belief and confidence that they have.”
Coming off the backs of a goalless home draw against an unbeaten South Alabama team, arguably MSU’s best opponent of the season, this continued the positive momentum that the program has had thus far.
The biggest thing for this coming week is working to capitalize on chances. MSU got the win and scored twice, but it took 22 shots, seven shots on goal and 11 corners to get there compared to just two shots and one shot on goal for Louisiana Tech.
“We’ve got to be better on our end as coaches, but the girls have to have more self-confidence in front of goal,” Armstrong said. “They’re so eager to score that we’re kind of snatching at our chances a little bit, so hopefully getting two goals today will allow us to calm down a little bit moving forward.”
The nonconference schedule rolls on as MSU travels to face an in-state rival in Southern Miss, a program the Bulldogs haven’t played since a 1-0 exhibition loss in 2019.
It will be a tough one, especially on the back line as all-SEC defender Andrea Tyrrell exited Sunday’s match in the 13th minute with a right leg injury, but knowing how MSU has played early on, the Bulldogs will keep the match competitive throughout.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.