SMSU SOCCER: Mustangs rally in second half to defeat Black Hills State, 2-1

Photo by Sam Thiel SMSU’s Alex Lotts denies a Black Hills State player from advancing the ball during their game on Sunday. The Mustangs defeated the Yellow Jackets 2-1.

MARSHALL – In their regular season debut, the Southwest Minnesota State University soccer team looked fairly dominant on both sides of the ball, controlling the possession for nearly the entire game and playing stifling defense.

That almost wasn’t enough to come away with a win. Thanks to a spirited rally, that tune quickly changed to a positive one.

A pair of late goals by the Mustangs highlighted a come-from-behind effort, as SMSU kept Black Hills State University winless on the season with a 2-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at Mattke Field.

SMSU coach Erin Kasmarik-Mallett said despite playing well in a lot of different aspects of the game, it wouldn’t have meant much without finishing with a win, but added she was proud of the way the team fought to the end to come out on top.

“Soccer’s kind of a funny game where it can feel like you can dominate a game, you feel like you play really well, you have more chances, more shots, more possession and sometimes it almost doesn’t work out,” Kasmarik-Mallett said. “That was almost us, but it was really great to see them take that second half, get back into the game and then go out and win it. From that standpoint, I think there are a lot of great things for us to go out and build on from that, but also some lessons that we’re going to take away. That’s why these things happen early, we’ll fix them and learn from them.”

The Mustangs took control of the tempo right from the start, pushing the ball into the Yellow Jackets’ side of the field and finding early opportunities to score, but couldn’t capitalize. The two teams continued to go back and forth with their tight play, until a goal from BHSU in the 30th minute put the Yellow Jackets up 1-0, an advantage that stood until halftime.

Still in search of a spark to start the second half, the Mustangs continued to keep the ball in their possession for the majority of the frame, but each time they got close to the next, Black Hills State made sure to break things up.

As time continued to wind down and SMSU’s chances of tying the game were beginning to slip away, the Mustangs found a burst of energy when Lexi Smith connected a pass to Jessica Jugovich, who buried the equalizer in the 78th minute. Jugovich’s goal, the first of her career, tied things up at 1-1 and ultimately breathed new life into the SMSU comeback attempt.

It didn’t take much longer for the rally bid to continue.

Roughly a minute after Jugovich scored, Erin Fisher broke free from a group of defenders and weaved her way towards the net, firing a shot that found the back of the net off the assist from Olivia Harriger to push the Mustangs in front at 2-1 in the 79th minute.

Fisher said in the first half and early in the second half, they were forcing passes that weren’t open, but felt they did a better job later on of communicating on offense which helped lead to the scores.

“I think we just tried to find each other more (in the first half) and I feel like we were forcing the ball a lot up the field and we just weren’t working as a team as much,” Fisher said. “Once we started communicating and creating the chances, we were able to get it into the back of the net.”

The Yellow Jackets made one last push to force an overtime period, but a shot at the buzzer just went wide and SMSU capped off the comeback to start their season in the right direction.

SMSU outshot BHSU on the afternoon 13-4, with seven of those shots coming on goal. Amanda Haimes earned the win in goal for SMSU, recording one save.

SMSU (1-0) will continue non-conference play on Thursday with a road matchup at William Jewell (Mo.) at 3:30 p.m. Kasmarik-Mallett said their biggest takeaway is using this opening win and confidence boost as momentum as they begin their season.

“I think this is the first time in a long time since I’ve been here that we’ve won our first game (to start the season),” Kasmarik-Mallett said. “It’s great to be able to start on that positive note and build on that for our next ones going forward and I think that’s going to be a really great thing for our confidence going forward.”