By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Brianne West broke a scoreless tie in the 81st minute Sunday, leading the Minnesota State women’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Central Oklahoma in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament at The Pitch.
West’s goal came at 81:28 when she took a pass from Brittany Henry and knocked it into the right side of the net past diving goalkeeper Meagan Burke.
Although most of the match was played without a score, the Mavericks had the upper hand most of the way. They finished with eight shots on goal compared to three for the Broncos.
“I thought Central Oklahoma had some good chances in the first half off some corner kicks, and they had more good chances in the second, too,” MSU head coach Peter McGahey said. “Offensively we generated quite a few opportunities. We were able to find some rhythm early and keep the tempo up.”
Sophomore Molly McGough, who went into the match ranked third in the nation with a 0.32 goals-against average, recorded her 14th shutout of the season. McGough now holds MSU’s single season (14) and career (24) shutouts records.
“Molly has had a very good year,” McGahey said. “She’s a key part of a concerted team effort. This team did a great job of finding it’s own identity of how to play defense within our philosophical system. They figured that out pretty early in the season.”
McGough, who has been playing goalie since she was 13, said both she and the rest of the defense have improved over the course of the season.
“You’re constantly finding yourself in new situations,” she said. “Sometimes you make a mistake but you try to remember that the next time that situation comes up again.”
The Mavericks (17-1-3), the second seed in the regional, now advance to the region finals where they will play No. 1 seed Central Missouri State at the sweet sixteen tournament in Grand Valley, Mich. Central Missouri defeated MSU 3-0 earlier in this fall.
“I think we’re playing at a higher level now,” McGough said. “We’re glad to have the opportunity to play Central Missouri again. We definitely want another shot at them.”