PALO ALTO, Calif. - No. 6 Mississippi State (12-5-5) faced off against No. 3 Brown (12-3-2) Friday evening for a chance at history in Palo Alto, California. In the entire history of soccer at Mississippi State University, no team had advanced past the Round of 32. With a valiant second-half effort, the Bulldogs have once again etched their names in the record books this season by defeating Brown 2-1.
The first half featured a very tough and physical battle on both sides of the pitch as both squads asserted the tough nature of the contest early and often. With rain and a chill in the California air, both Brown and State fought the elements as they fought to secure the first goal of the contest. Neither side was successful in doing so in the first half with the score at a deadlock after 45 minutes.
The second half began with a crazy defensive sequence that saw the Bulldogs successfully block and save four Brown shots to keep the score at nill-nill, however, the Bears were able to strike first shortly thereafter. Layla Shell played a ball to the back post that Naya Cardoza was able to head in for her third goal of the season to make it 1-0.
With their backs to the wall, State was ready for the fight. In the 69th minute, Ilana Izquierdo played a ball through the back line that found the foot of Kennedy White who sent it up and over to find the back of the net for her second goal of the season to tie things up at 1-1. With the rain beginning to dictate the flow of the contest, the Bulldogs knew they had to lock in and take advantage of every opportunity.
Just seven minutes after the equalizer, Ilana Izquierdo jogged over to the flag for a Mississippi State corner kick. Kennedy White was there to play it off the service sending it to the back post once again. With the Brown defense swarming in the box, Taylor James found the ball midair, spinning to her right to send the ball on goal. The spinning right foot of James sent the ball into the back of the net to make the contest 2-1 for the first goal of her career in her 27th game. The first goal of her career will live in the Mississippi State soccer record books for years to come as it was ultimately the game-winner, sending the Soccer Dawgs to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
No. 6 Mississippi State will now face No. 2 Stanford on Sunday for a chance at the Elite 8. The match is slated for a 3 PM CT kick and will be streamed on ESPN+.