FOLEY, Ala. – The Little Rock soccer team is advancing to the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament after their 2-1 victory over the Georgia Southern Eagles—freshman midfielder Mariella Stephens scoring both goals.
“We challenged them to be more aggressive on set plays today. It was brilliant to get one in on the first corner of the game. Mariella did a great job and [she’s] a terrific young player,” said head coach Mark Foster. “It was great to see her step up today and get two goals. It was a big-time effort from a freshman.”
The energy was high from the Trojans who came into the match in full swing, took all the opportunities they had, and ran with them. Within the first six minutes of the game, there was a Trojan corner kick by senior midfielder Morgan Smocavich that landed perfectly on Stephens’ feet for a side tap that netted the ball, passed the Eagle defender.
Their confidence was up and they were not going to let this one slip away. Three minutes later, junior defender Natalee Geren set the ball up upfield, sophomore forward Mari Young headed it towards the goal, and Stephens effortlessly curved it to the left side of the net, leaving the Eagle goalkeeper frozen with no opportunity to stop it.
Stephens was excited and hopeful of her team’s performance. “During the game, I was really excited. I thought we played, especially in the second half, really well. We played the type of soccer that we normally stick to—possession. We created a lot of chances from it, so that was exciting.”
The Eagles fought back to try and get back in the game. Luck was on their side during minute 38 when the Little Rock defense was attempting to get the ball out of the box. Instead, an Eagle player deflected the ball into the goal.
Regardless of the Eagles getting on the board, the Trojans kept their energy and continued playing as the great team that they are, not letting their opponent tie the game.
The second half brought less action but was still meaningful as Little Rock had possession for most of the remaining of the game and created multiple opportunities that ultimately fell short of another goal. At minute 75, a red card was called on the Eagles leaving them with 10 players.
The defense worked to not let anything through and with follow-through and determination, the Trojans came out victorious.
“We kept our energy up. And then after the game, it was such a rewarding feeling that we got away with a win,” said Stephens.
The Little Rock soccer team will face South Alabama, the number one team in the East division, in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament that takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 1:30 p.m. Tune in to ESPN+ to support your Trojans while on the road.