Memphis women beat LSU 2-1, advance to face Notre Dame in second round of NCAA Tournament
Saturday night was not the first time the University of Memphis women’s soccer team has played host to LSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two years ago, they drew a crowd of 1,309 out to the Billy Murphy Track & Soccer Stadium and crushed the Bayou Bengals 3-0.
This year the Tigers of Memphis again beat the Tigers of LSU. But this time they scoreline was closer and the crowd was larger. Memphis beat LSU 2-1 in front of a record crowd of 2,073 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.
Memphis came out of the gate with their guns blazing and found themselves up 1-0 after just two minutes as Saorla Miller did good work down the left side and crossed to Mya Jones to tap in from six yards out. The dream start got even better as just 20 seconds later Momo Nakao buried a botched LSU clearance from 15 yards out to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead with less than three minutes off the clock. It’s a start that can be at least partially attributed to the Memphis’ egregious seeding.
“Yeah I mean it’s definitely something we’ve thought about.” said Mya Jones. “I think obviously it was kind of motivation for us to kind of prove that we did deserve a higher seed.”
But keeping their composure after such a quick start was key for Memphis as Jones explained.
“It was definitely hard because we scored so quickly and you’re so ramped up with so many people watching and it’s kind of a matter of game management. And I think we did a really good job of transitioning our focus to being like, ‘Ok we’re up now we just need to calm the game down.’ Regardless of the crowd, regardless of the atmosphere I think we did a really good job of managing the game.”
Memphis was able to take that 2-0 lead into the locker room at halftime and came out for the second half much the same way they came out to start the game. However, they weren’t able to get a third goal which Coach Brooks Monaghan said was just a little disappointing.
“I knew that it wasn’t going to keep going and going and going, right? But we did have a chance to get a third. 2-0 going into the half and that’s a scary scoreline in our sport. Coming out in the second half loved the energy and unlucky not to score a third. Because there’s a big difference between 3-0 and 2-0. Obviously they got that goal and made it very interesting.”
LSU did end up getting one back in the second half as, out of absolutely nowhere, they went on the counter and pulled one back to halve the deficit with 20 minutes to play. It set up a bit of a nervy finish. Memphis fans need not have worried as the hometown Tigers were able to see out the rest of the game to earn a 2-1 victory. It was the way that they closed the game out that Coach Monaghan was especially pleased with.
“Yeah with five minutes left we started telling them to take it to the corner. I thought they did a tremendous job. Obviously, they got out of it at the very end and it was a little tense with that set piece but you’re around these girls a lot and you just kind of felt like you’re not losing this game and that was the feel. I’m not going to sit here and say I didn’t get nervous. I get nervous every game. But again, great performance by our kids.”
By virtue of their win tonight (their fifth this season over a Power 5 opponent) the Tigers advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season. In 2021 they beat LSU but fell to Duke in the second round. In 2022 they beat St. Louis in the first round and Mississippi State in the second round before falling to Arkansas on penalties in Fayetteville. As fate would have it, the Tigers are heading back to Fayetteville for this year’s second round match-up against 3-seed Notre Dame. The Irish booked their spot in the second round by dispatching Valparaiso by a score of 2-0 in South Bend.
This game might be the toughest of the year for the Tigers as the Irish now have a record of 12-3-4 and finished 2nd in the ACC during the regular season. Fortunately, the Tigers have proven this year that they are more than capable of getting a result. They have the longest winning streak in women’s college soccer, having now won 16 straight games. Along the way they won the AAC West Division title, the AAC regular season title, and a third straight AAC Tournament title. Only time will tell if they can make this great season even better.
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