ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- The seventh-seeded LSU soccer team made history on Sunday as it captured the first SEC Tournament championship in program history with a dominant 4-1 result over fourth-seeded Arkansas in penalties after the game was all knotted up at one after 110 minutes of play.
Defying odds all week long, the Tigers completed their storybook, eight-day run at the SEC Tournament in fitting fashion with a result in penalties for the second time in the last three matches. LSU became the first team since the league tournament expanded in 2012 to play in the first round and claim the conference title.
In the shootout, Alex Thomas scored the first attempt of penalties before tournament Most Valuable Player, Caroline Brockmeier, came up with a huge save to give LSU a 1-0 lead after the first round. The second round saw Adrienne Richardson step up and knock one in before Arkansas' second attempt of the shootout caromed off the left post and rattled out. Marlena Cutura stepped right up and gave LSU a three-goal advantage before Arkansas' Haley VanFossen scored to make it 3-1. Freshman Abbey Newton toed the spot and sealed the deal for LSU's first ever conference title with a final tally of 4-1.
The Tigers rebounded with a tremendous amount of resilience after the first 45 minutes of play was a bit of a struggle. After only taking two shots and trailing by one, the Tigers didn't let that deter them from accomplishing a special feat. The Razorbacks took the lead in the 13th minute of the match when Taylor Malham scored. Stefani Doyle took a shot from the top of the 18 that went off the crossbar and the rebound went directly straight up in the air. Brockmeier had a bit of a hard time locating the ball and Malham moved in and forced the ball into the back of the net before Brockmeier could get her hands on it.
Coming out of the half trailing by one, LSU ramped up the pressure and spent a lot more time on the offensive side of the pitch in the second half. Still trailing by one with less than 20 minutes, freshman Shannon Cooke brought one back for the Tigers. Struggling to get any quality chances inside the box, Cooke found herself with the ball about 40 yards out after Abbey Newton moved the ball across the pitch to her. Cooke took a touch and smashed it top bins from about 40 yards out for the equalizer. Cooke was named to the SEC All-Tournament team for her performance this week that included two goals. They were the first two goals scored by Cooke this season.
The game would not have gone to penalties if it wasn't for the stellar work of the tournament MVP. Brockmeier made the only two her only two saves of the match in the first overtime. Arkansas had a free kick less than a minute into the first overtime period and after a loose ball was floated in the box and Tori Cannata attempted a to send LSU home with a bicycle kick but Brockmeier's cat-like reflexes saved the day before the ball could enter the net. Less than two minutes later and Arkansas had another quality chance off of a corner kick. Abbi Neece's header from 10 yards out was corralled by Brockmeier.
Quotes of Note
"The toughness, the grit, the resiliency our team showed game after game is such a positive sign and it speaks very well of our character. We didn't play great in the first half, but to be able to go into halftime and come out in the second half with that type of performance with all these minutes played is just fantastic." - Head Coach Brian Lee
"We've been getting better and better. We're a really young team. Some of them are just learning about college soccer, and roles are adjusting for the some of the older girls as we keep bringing in talented young players. What a total team effort. Thirty-two strong is one of our slogans and every kid on the roster participated and brought positive energy and help us do this this week." - Head Coach Brian Lee
"It feels unreal. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now. It hasn't really sunk in yet. It's amazing. I love this team. I'm so happy I could be a part of this." - SEC Tournament MVP, Caroline Brockmeier
"We knew Arkansas was good in the air. I had to do my part when it came down to it. We marked up as well as we could. I kept telling myself 'This ones yours.' I did my part and so did the rest of the team." - SEC Tournament MVP, Caroline Brockmeier
"I came out here and played as hard as I could. My team did that as well. I couldn't have done it without this team. They had my back and I had their backs the whole way through." - SEC Tournament MVP, Caroline Brockmeier
"Abbey Newton sent the ball over to me. I took a touch, smashed it, bagged it, top bins and I looked in the back of the net and it was in. The next thing I know my teammates were all over me and we had equalized it." Shannon Cooke on her equalizer in the 72nd minute
- First SEC Tournament title for LSU in program history
- LSU will go down in the SEC record book as the lowest seed to win the conference tournament as a seven seed alongside the seventh-seeded Auburn team from 2011
- First team to ever win SEC title after playing in the opening round since the tournament expanded in 2012
- Caroline Brockmeier was named the SEC Tournament MVP; she had 19 saves and one shutout in the four games played. She also came up big in penalties as she saved two attempts against No. 12 Tennessee on Tuesday and one on Sunday against Arkansas
- Alex Thomas, Adrienne Richardson and Shannon Cooke were named to the all-tournament team. Thomas had the first hat trick in LSU history at the SEC Tournament against Missouri last Sunday, Cooke scored two goals during the four-game tournament, and Richardson assisted on Cooke's first goal of the tourney against No. 12 Tennessee on Tuesday
- LSU will enter the NCAA Tournament on a six-match unbeaten streak
The Tigers are a lock to host the First Round of the NCAA Tournament that will take place this upcoming weekend (Nov. 9-11). Dates, times, locations, and opponents will be announced at the NCAA Selection Show on Monday at 3:30 p.m. CT.