Redhawks win, advance to OVC tournament
The Southeast women’s soccer team closed out the regular season with a 1-0 win over Jacksonville State, which gave them a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
In a game where Southeast honored their six seniors and with a spot in the OVC Tournament on the line, they were going to come out and play hard.
“We were all ready to come out and we wanted to fight,” sophomore midfielder Esmie Gonzales said. “It doesn’t matter if we are already in or not, we wanted to play 100 percent.”
Jacksonville came out and played a physical game in the first half but that did not affect the Redhawks’ ability to put the ball in the net. After a scoreless first half, Southeast led in shots on goal eight to five with four of their shots being on net.
To start off the second half, Southeast came out and played a more physical game.
“The coaches kind of pumped us up a little bit,” Gonzales said. “We were like, ‘Come on guys we got this, this is our time. We can do it.’ We just pump each other up like that. We were ready and we had to come out and change the game.”
In the 58th minute, Gonzales broke the tie with a header just under the crossbar, which was fed by freshman midfielder Lexi Grote.
“I was just at the right time at the right place. Grote had an excellent ball and just the way all of us were crashing the ball, I just tried to find a spot and get it in,” Gonzales said. “I just went for it. Headers are not my strongest but I tried to do the best I can.”
Senior goalkeeper Kindra Lierz said Gonzales always finds a way to create chances to score big goals.
“She just knows how to get dirty,” Lierz said. “Not get dirty mean-wise, but get dirty to where she’ll do anything to get a goal. She will try to find the little ways she can go through and just try to get a goal for us, and I know she tries every game to get a goal for us.”
After Southeast gained the 1-0 lead they started to pick up their defense but didn’t back down on attack.
As the rain started to fall in the final minutes of the game, Lierz had to change her plan of attack to make sure the ball didn’t find the back of the net.
“I have to make sure I’m behind the ball a lot,” Lierz said. “Because it can take any skip, it can do anything, so I want to make sure I have it covered as much as possible.”
Southeast held onto the 1-0 lead to win the game over Jacksonville State and finished off the regular season with a 7-7-3 overall record and a 4-3-3 record in the OVC.
With their win, the Redhawks advance to the OVC Tournament as a No. 5 seed and will face Austin Peay at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Southeast finished off the regular season winning three of their last four games at home.
“We’re on a good run right now, we need to keep it up, we’re about to play some teams — we already know how they play and now we have to get in and go,” Lierz said.
Heading into the OVC Tournament, coach Heather Nelson feels confident that Southeast is ready to compete.
“I feel that with the players that we have, we’re actually getting back to health. We’re thin but we’re healthy with the players that we have on the field,” Nelson said.
Nelson added with some of the previous injuries players had earlier in the season, they made sure they were ready for the tournament by not playing them too much on Sunday.
The coaching staff will have a busy couple of days as they will be getting ready to start the tournament by watching a lot of film against Austin Peay.
“We will focus exclusively on that game for the players, and the coaching staff will look more forward about who our next potential opponent will be,” Nelson said.
Southeast played Austin Peay Oct. 6 in Clarksville, Tennessee, which ended up in a 1-1 tie. Nelson said she expects another great game between the two teams.
“With the Austin Peay game, it was a really good game at their place. They play a nice brand of soccer and I think we’re somewhat similar,” Nelson said.
Nelson said with the exception of shortening their sessions between now and Friday, they will keep their routine the same.
“Habits and routine are critical to a team at this stage of the season,” Nelson said.
Finishing the season off with a win was big for the team, but they look to continue their season beyond Sunday’s win.
“An OVC win would definitely be the best and to get to the NCAA [Tournament],” Lierz said. “But knowing that we are going to the tournament is really good.”