PALO ALTO, Calif. - No. 6 Mississippi State (12-6-5) faced off against the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (18-0-4) on Sunday for an opportunity to place themselves in the Elite 8 of the 2023 NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament. After a hard-fought battle on the pitch, the most successful season in Mississippi State Soccer history came to a close as the Cardinal outlasted the Bulldogs 1-0.
Stanford secured their solitary goal early in the match during the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Cagan Stadium. In the 11th minute, Elise Evans, a sophomore at Stanford, skillfully headed in the game-winner. The opportunity arose when Maya Doms' initial header from a Stanford corner struck the crossbar, only for Evans to be perfectly positioned to net her second goal of the season on the rebound. This marked the first of six corners for the Cardinal in the game. Impressively, Stanford has now achieved four consecutive shutouts, with the last goal conceded occurring in the 68th minute against No. 2 UCLA on October 29-resulting in an impressive 383:37 minutes of consecutive scoreless play.
Mississippi State was not going to go down without a fight. Just as they had been all season, the Bulldogs were resilient and were in a constant hunt for the equalizer until the final horn sounded. Carrying the Bulldog mentality since first stepping on the pitch this season, State has never backed down from a challenge, no matter the stage or circumstance.
After trailing 1-nill at the half, State came out of the locker room with blazing fury, unleashing three shots and securing a corner kick in the early going to apply pressure to the Cardinal. State was also able to thwart many Stanford chances in the second half, frustrating the home crowd as they were unable to stretch the lead. As the game wore on, the Stanford defense remained stingy as they were able to hang onto the early goal to advance in the tournament.
For the Bulldogs, the 2023 season is one to remember and will go down in the record books for Head Coach James Armstrong and his staff. Each season, Coach Armstrong has been able to build off of the last as this season marked the first appearance in the Sweet 16 for State. Before Armstrong arrived in Starkville, State had only appeared in the NCAA Tournament one time. Now, the Bulldogs have enjoyed back-to-back trips that included hosting opportunities. This season, MSU will end the year ranked for the first time as they were No.18 in the final United Soccer Coaches poll. State was one of two SEC quads to reach the Sweet 16 and will forever be a top-16 team in the books when the 2023 season has concluded.