COLUMBIA, Mo. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Mississippi State made the SEC Soccer Tournament for the first time in 15 years with a 4-2 victory at Missouri on Thursday night. Four different Bulldogs scored, and MSU never trailed in the match.
The Bulldogs will be the No. 9 seed with 12 points, passing Tennessee and No. 10-seed Auburn which both lost on Thursday. MSU will play No. 8-seed Ole Miss at 3:30 p.m. CT on Sunday in Orange Beach, Ala. The winner of that matchup will meet face No. 1-seed Arkansas on Tuesday.
"I couldn't be happier for the girls," head coach James Armstrong said. "I couldn't be more proud. All the hard work that they've put in this season all came to fruition tonight. Obviously, it was a massive game for everyone and a must-win game. Really proud of the girls."
State earned four corners in the first seven minutes. On Miranda Carrasco's fourth service, MaKayla Waldner jumped just over Monigo Karnley to head the ball into the net. It was the Dexter, Missouri, native's 10th goal of the year, making her just the fifth player in school history to reach that mark. She has now posted the 10th 20-point season in school history as well.
In the 20th minute, Hailey Farrington-Bentil took a pass from Carrasco and served the ball into the box. SEC Freshman of the Week Onyi Echegini put a header off the left post, but quickly tapped her own rebound home to extend the lead to two goals.
Missouri answered just 2:21 later, but the Bulldogs would strike again before halftime. In the 30th minute, Olivia Hernandez beat her defender off the dribble and headed to the end line. She sent in a sharp-angle cross then Karnley finished to make it a 3-1 game before the break.
Farrington-Bentil added to the scoring in the 49th minute on another corner kick. After the ball was served in, Farrington-Bentil's initial shot was blocked, but she found the rebound before the diving keeper and poked it past her for State's fourth goal. That matched the Bulldogs' season high set in the first match of the year.
Missouri would add a final goal in the 82nd minute, but the Bulldogs held on for the victory, despite being outshot 10-1 following their fourth tally.
"I'm incredibly excited for them," Armstrong said. "They've put so much into this season, and it's only fitting that they get the rewards. We're going to enjoy this night tonight and get back to work tomorrow because we have more work to do down in Orange Beach."
With the victory, the Bulldogs have won multiple road games in conference play for the first time since 2015, and their four road wins on the year rank third in school history. State posted its third-best winning percentage in conference play and has now recorded eight or more wins in three consecutive seasons for the first time.
MSU's 12 points in league play is its highest total since 2004. Armstrong is one of just two active SEC head coaches to have reached the league tournament in his first year as a head coach of any program.