Until the coaching staff moved into KSU’s new football facility on October 16th, most of the program’s developments were only theoretical.
Coaches, a corporate sponsor, and a football-only membership in the Big South were all announced since football was officially approved in February. Those are all vital steps, but none had the physical presence of giving the long-anticipated KSU football program a personal home.
Taking advantage of Cobb County’s abundance of nondescript office parks, the area’s most impressive natural resource, KSU converted warehouse and office space into its first physical facility. Offices, exercise space, and meeting rooms are all located in the new building, which took just over two months to complete.
Media and invited guests were allowed into the 29,500-square-foot space for a special KSU unveil on November 13th, a month after head coach Brian Bohannon and the seven other members of the football staff moved in. Bohannon and KSU athletic director Vaughan Williams showed the enthusiasm that has become expected of the two faces of KSU football.
“We want to do it right,” Williams said in his opening statement. “We want to do it first class.”
“This is an unbelievable step in what’s going on at Kennesaw State University and with the football program right now,” Bohannon added during his turn.
Exploring his new playhouse, the first-time head coach appeared to have the same mixture of excitement and duty that a new college freshman would have while guiding his family around campus. Yes, he’s ecstatic to live away from home for the first time, but does he really have to show grandpa the student center?
The tour began in a meeting room with capabilities to divide into thirds, and we headed toward the strength and conditioning portion of the facility. A 4,300-square-foot weight room is the centerpiece of that branch, with an office and also an adjoining turf field for speed and agility work. Bohannon says that it will remain empty until the first of the year, when the head coach expects to announce a strength coach who will make layout and equipment decisions. We pass offices for the offensive coaches and the director of football, Jay Bailey. Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brett Gilliland is on the phone and someone assumes he is hard at work. He very well could just be ordering a pizza or buying a juicer from QVC, but for now he has most of us fooled. The offensive coaches are all clustered in a section of the building, leading back to Bohannon’s own office like it is the final room of a footballing Pokémon gym.
Leather seats, family pictures, a gigantic TV for film study (or Netflix)—the head coach’s office is everything you’d expect from the ethos of a college football figure. There are KSU graphics and “Win the Day” slogans all over the place, but Bohannon is insistent on the interlocking “KS” logo.
“That ‘KS’ has got to one day be the ‘G’ and ‘GT’,” he said, invoking the two flagship football programs in the state.
If it sounds like the former Georgia Tech assistant is recruiting us through the building, it makes sense: with practice not starting until the fall of 2014, KSU football’s new home is really just a base camp for the pursuit of the prospects that will make up the Owls’ first team. Every salesperson needs his or her showroom, and now that Bohannon has his, the habit of recruiting is tough to break.
On KSU basketball’s Flight Night, the football staff hosted 60 recruits and their families in the new facility. Bohannon was asked Wednesday about how recruits reacted, and since he cannot directly comment on individual recruits per NCAA rules, he had to somewhat avoid the question.
“Some good things that I can’t technically talk about have happened since then,” Bohannon said. “But it’s been really, really positive.”
He was, in a roundabout way, talking about receiving commitments from the class of 2014. KSUOwlHowl.com, a fan site that closely tracks recruiting, lists 11 players already committed for a class that Bohannon says he expects to reach 25-30 members when they sign in February.
While the coaches in the new facility are at work building a foundation for the program, Williams reinforces the fact that it is only temporary. As committed as he says the school is to the objective of football, he insists the new building is more of a catalyst to what the program could be.
“We look at it as a short-term situation,” Williams said. “This is not something we’re going to be in for 30 years. This is something that we need to get the program started.”
After the tour ended, Williams spent extensive time detailing his hopes for everything from the future press box to game day atmosphere, using the large visualization of a football edition of Fifth Third Bank Stadium that hangs on the wall. The optimistic athletic director’s mind seemed like it could have gone on for hours as he listed possibilities like streaming games on big screens outside the stadium, or having fans walk on closed streets to the stadium.
For now, though, simply existing will have to do. A hopeful trophy case in the hallway emphasized the triumph of even having this football building. Encased in the glass was a simple memento that represents both a victory and a beginning: the golden helmet, with Brian Bohannon’s preferred ‘KS’.
Two second-half goals from Jacksonville ended KSU’s 2013 season in disappointing fashion in the Atlantic Sun semifinals on Friday afternoon at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
As the Owls found out, it is typically hard to beat a team twice in a year, especially when the opponent is coming off a first-round bye, as the Dolphins were. Jacksonville’s No. 2 seed afforded it the luxury of having the previous weekend off, while the Owls labored to a 1-0 victory against Lipscomb.
Jacksonville forward Kaitlyn Basset’s perfectly weighted through ball between the KSU center backs allowed Marie Weckhurst to open the scoring in the 66th minute. Her sliding finish past Owls goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant gave the Dolphins a lead that KSU head coach Rob King rightfully expected would be decisive.
“The team that scored first was likely going to it win and we pushed to try and get one after their goal,” King said to KSUOwls.com after the match.
That effort would prove to be unsuccessful, as Jacksonville’s Joy Grove extended the Dolphins’ lead in the 77th minute with a curling finish from about 19 yards out, deflating the trailing Owls. Only one of KSU’s 14 shots would come after Grove doubled the lead.
“Sarah [Sierra] and the defensive group did a great job of keeping them off the board,” Brian Copham, Jacksonville’s head coach, told JUDolphins. com. “They have some dangerous attacking players that they dealt with very well.”
The veteran focal point of said KSU attack, Katrina Frost, led the Owls in shots but was unable to get one on frame in her last match with the team.
Her freshman protégés, Maggie Gaughan and Shannon Driscoll, only managed a combined one shot on goal, but certainly have the athletic potential to take control of the attack in the years to come.
“We are disappointed but pleased with the growth this year,” King said. “Our seniors have set the course for our young squad and expectations are high as we move forward.”
It was a young team, indeed, and only three seniors—Frost, Kelsey Barr, and Tasia Williams— depart from a team that will be hungry to build upon this season’s success. KSU will return nine starters next season, which will give the team much-needed experience in a league it is not far from winning.
Hosts FGCU also won 2-0 over Mercer in the later Friday game, before they, too, fell victim to Jacksonville. The Dolphins earned their third A-Sun championship on Sunday, perhaps giving a silver lining to the Owls: they might have lost, but at least it was to the eventual champions.
An early Shannon Driscoll goal was the catalyst in KSU’s 1-0 victory over Lipscomb on Saturday night in the first round of the Atlantic Sun soccer playoffs.
KSU seemed to have scored seconds earlier when Jewelia Strickland’s corner found the head of Nicole Calder. Calder’s header appeared to cross the line, but the freshman forward Driscoll nudged the ball home after a deflection. Neither team would score again in what KSU head coach Rob King felt was a deserved victory.
“I think on the balance of play, the better team won on the night,” King said. “I’m real proud of the effort we gave and the goal that we got.”
Even though the goal came from a deflection, Driscoll cutting inward from the left gave Lipscomb trouble numerous times. The trifecta of Driscoll, Maggie Gaughan, and Katrina Frost led the way as the Owls tallied 20 shots, ten of which came on goal.
KSU’s movement up front provided one of the team’s most interesting attacking performances. Brittney Reed returned to her usual right back position, but was able to overlap because the player in front of her, Elizabeth Johnson, is listed as a defender and covered efficiently.
Gaughan nearly created a second goal when she earned a penalty kick for KSU in the 55th minute. The Owls looked confused as to who should take the kick, until Alma Gardarsdottir finally stepped up. Her shot to the right side was not enough, though, and Buhigas was able to limit the damage.
A strong defensive performance allowed the Owls to hold out for the 85 minutes after Driscoll’s goal. Gardarsdottir’s miss would prove to be inconsequential, as the All-Atlantic Sun defender gave a steady performance for a unit ranked third in the A-Sun with 1.18 goals allowed per game.
Central to that defensive performance was stopping the A-Sun’s co-leading scorer, Lipscomb forward Ellen Lundy. The 6’1” freshman dropped into midfield, hoping to neutralize Calder’s aerial prowess. Lipscomb head coach Kevin O’Brien told Lipscombsports. com after the game that it was by design.
“Part of the game plan was to not allow Calder to get her head on it,” O’Brien said. “That was just impossible. She was great and really led her team to victory.”
KSU goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant earned her seventh shutout of the year on the night. Despite only needing to make three saves, her play at the back calmed things down, even as Lipscomb frantically searched for an equalizer to save its season.
“They were trying it in behind a lot and she was great off her line,” Strickland said of the freshman goalkeeper.
The Owls move on to the A-Sun semifinals to face No.2 Jacksonville, another opponent the Owls have already beaten this year. Although the Owls managed a 2-1 overtime victory, the team was forced to change its system because of JU’s unique formation.
“They play quite an unusual system in the midfield, where they play four in a box,” King said after the teams’ earlier matchup this season. “It’s not every day you see that.”
Jacksonville vs. KSU takes place on Friday at 4 p.m. in Fort Myers, Fla., at the FGCU Soccer Complex. The winner of the ASun.TV-televised game will meet the winner of FGCU- Mercer in the conference championship on Sunday at 1 p.m., available on ESPN3.
Combining the typical instability of the final day of soccer competitions with the inherent peculiarity of the state of Florida gave KSU’s soccer team a wide range of possibilities as they traveled to Jacksonville to finish the regular season.
To qualify for the six-team Atlantic Sun playoffs, all KSU needed to do was earn a single point from the final weekend. Every possibility from No. 2 down to missing the postseason was still in play when games kicked off Friday. A game- winning Shannon Driscoll goal against Jacksonville on Friday sealed the playoffs for the Owls and put them in solid position to have a legitimate shot at a No. 2 seed if they could pull off a win on Sunday against North Florida.
It was a somewhat simple task for KSU head coach Rob King and the Owls: beat a team that had only won two games in conference so far. Instead, KSU squandered that opportunity with a 4-1 loss to the Ospreys on Sunday afternoon.
UNF’s Jill Holdsworth opened the scoring in the 48th minute, followed quickly by Lauren Hopfensperger making it 2-0 just two minutes later. Katrina Frost brought the Owls within one with a 70th minute finish, but that was as close the visitors would come. UNF would go on to add insurance goals from Alexis Bredeau and Thea Linkfield to finish off KSU, giving the underdog a slight consolation for just missing out on the playoffs.
“Kennesaw is a very good team,” said Linda Hamilton, UNF’s head coach, to unfospreys.com. “In conference play, anything can happen on any given day and our team definitely showed up to play.”
Sunday’s loss places KSU in the No. 3 seed, two points shy of earning the valuable first-round bye. The bracket is quite kind to the Owls, though. The Owls wouldn’t meet No. 1 Florida Gulf Coast until the finals, and the early-round opponents they would face, Lipscomb and Jacksonville, are both teams Rob King’s squad has defeated this season.
Having to play in the first round was not what the Owls were hoping for, but the team can take solace in the match being at home. No. 6 Lipscomb—in their first ever A-Sun playoff appearance—will be the opponent on Saturday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, where KSU is unbeaten since midway through September.
“We are excited about being able to host,” King said to ksuowls.com. “We worked hard to get to this point and we are looking forward to that game. “Stopping Ellen Lundy will be key for the Owls to advance from the first round. The 6-foot- 1 forward ranks second in the A-Sun in goals with 14, despite being just a freshman. She scored the lone Lipscomb goal in KSU’s 2-1 victory to open the conference slate, and her battle with organized KSU defense will go a long way in deciding who advances to the semifinal.
The winner of Saturday’s match will advance to play in the conference semifinal against No. 2 Jacksonville on Friday, November 8th.
For most teams, homecoming weekend is a chance to coast against an overmatched opponent and leisurely watch a parade. Instead, KSU soccer had to settle for two crucial Atlantic Sun matches against the first- and second-place teams in the conference.
The Owls, who were winless since October 4th, were in desperate need of a positive performance in the last home matches of the season to keep up with the pace in the Atlantic Sun playoff battle. KSU (7-7-1, 4-2-1) earned four points from the two weekend matches, winning against Stetson and drawing with Florida Gulf Coast.
Elizabeth Johnson’s 44th minute goal was the difference in Friday’s 1-0 victory over Stetson. The midfielder’s initial headed effort was deflected back to her, and she finished superbly with to the upper- right corner of Stetson keeper Victoria Triccoli’s net.
The Owls also celebrated Senior Night on Friday.
Seniors Kelsey Barr and Tasia Williams, along with redshirt junior Katrina Frost, celebrated their last regular-season matches at Fifth Third Bank Stadium and were presented with commemorative soccer balls before the Stetson match.
“It’s definitely been a bittersweet weekend, with it being my last time playing in the stadium,” Frost said. “It’s nice to go out on a good note.”
On Sunday, neither KSU or FGCU could get on the scoreboard, and the teams played to a scoreless draw after two overtimes. Katrina Frost’s disallowed goal after she was ruled offside was as close as the Owls would come to scoring, but they managed to earn a draw with the top- ranked squad in the A-Sun.
The weekend’s results place the Owls in a three-way tie with Mercer and Stetson for third place in the conference. Six teams will qualify for the tournament, one which KSU and its head coach, Rob King, have high hopes for if they can qualify.
“We’re getting to the point where I think the team is believing in themselves,” King said. “They believe they can win this thing.”
A large part of the belief comes from the Owls’ strong defense, which earned goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant her fifth and sixth shutouts of the season, despite facing the league’s top attack in FGCU, which was averaging 2.31 goals per game coming into the weekend. Junior Iyani Hughes, normally a forward, was singled out by King after the game for her play, but according to Barr, it was a team effort.
“Everybody, the whole team, was defending,” Barr said. “I’m just so proud of us.”
Only two regular-season matches remain for KSU, both of them in Jacksonville, Fla. The Owls play the A-Sun’s current second-place team, Jacksonville, on Friday at 7 p.m., and then complete the 2013 regular season on Sunday against North Florida at 1 p.m.
Any hope KSU had of bringing home a soccer victory as a 50th birthday present to the school was dashed on Friday night by Mercer midfielder Haleigh Svede’s double- overtime winner.
The freshman’s left-footed strike skipped past Owls goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant in the 109th minute to give Mercer the comeback victory over the visiting Owls (6-7, 3-2). The loss drops KSU to fifth place in the Atlantic Sun with nine points.
KSU’s solid performance in the first half will likely leave them feeling that they were unfortunate to leave Macon without getting at least a draw. The Owls forced eight first-half saves on 13 shots, but it was actually a fluky set piece that put the Owls on the scoreboard. A Jewelia Strickland free kick in the 34th minute from behind the half-way line was misjudged by Mercer goalkeeper Maggie Cropp, who was forced to spectate as the ball bounced over her head and into the net. Strickland’s reliable service has provided three assists on the year, but she netted her first goal of the season on the deceptive hop of the ball.
Before Friday, the Owls were 4-0 in matches in which they took a 1-0 lead in the first half. This particular advantage, however, could only be held until the 71st minute, when Kim Murphy equalized for the Bears. Murphy instinctively redirected Mackenzie Stewart’s half volley into Sturdivant’s goal to tie the match at 1-1.
Neither team could manage a winner deep in regulation, so the match carried into extra time, the first occasion for the Owls since last season’s 1-1 draw at home against Mercer.
Svede’s late winner erased the chance for a repeat, though, and sent the Owls home empty-handed.
Usual starters Brittney Reed and Suzanne Arafa (missing her third consecutive match) were out, forcing KSU head coach Rob King to reshuffle his lineup. Iyani Hughes made her first start of the season, and King was only comfortable using three substitutes from his shortened bench, despite the lengthy match.
Only four matches remain in the regular season for the Owls, who have perhaps the toughest weekend of the conference slate approaching: KSU will host second-place Stetson on Friday night, and then wrap up the 2013 home schedule with match against league-leading FGCU on Sunday afternoon.
KSU soccer’s perfect start to conference play was snapped on Sunday in Johnson City, Tenn., as the Owls were defeated 2-0 by East Tennessee State.
The defeat ends a winning streak that had increased to four consecutive wins with Friday night’s 3-1 win at USC Upstate in Spartanburg. KSU (6-6, 3-1) entered the ETSU match level at nine points each with Florida Gulf Coast at the top of the Atlantic Sun standings, but the Owls failed to continue their run of good form.
Scoring had not been an issue for KSU recently, averaging 2.33 goals per game during the winning streak. On Sunday, however, the Owls found it much more difficult to get on the scoreboard, even though they recored 16 shots as a team. Katrina Frost and Nicole Calder led the team with four shots each.
“We had opportunities in the first half to go a goal or two up and we did not take them which kept them in the game,” head coach Rob King said to ksuowls.com Sunday afternoon.
ETSU’s Molly Collinson made the Owls pay for missed opportunities when she put the Bucs ahead in the 47th minute. Her left-footed finish that beat Owls goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant to the bottom-right corner of the goal and started a second half in which KSU showed symptoms of a team playing its second game of the weekend in as many states.
“Second half we were a little slow to the ball, defended poorly a couple of times and they got the goals that counted,” King said.
An insurance goal came for ETSU in the 76th minute when Kristi Davis snuck between the KSU center backs to run onto a pass from Sarah Zadrazil. Davis chipped over Sturdivant to finish off the Owls.
Despite the loss, KSU remains just a point out of first place since FGCU could only manage a draw against Lipscomb on Sunday. Third-place Mercer will be the next opponent for the Owls on Friday night in Macon.
Two Katrina Frost goals against Northern Kentucky on Sunday afternoon led KSU’s soccer team to its 150th victory in the program’s 12-season history.
Despite saying he doesn’t pay attention to statistics like that, head coach Rob King enjoyed the occasion—even if he did have the water cooler poured on him after the Owls’ 2-0 win. King has been around for all 150 matches as the only head coach KSU soccer has ever had.
“I’m delighted with reaching that milestone, and that’s come from having a lot of really good players and good people in our program,” King said.
Reaching 150 wins punctuated a weekend that was archetypical of what a good performance for the Owls generally is. Nicole Calder headers, Jewelia Strickland assists, goals from Frost—the ingredients to a weekend of KSU victories were all present.
The Owls’ current three-game winning streak moves the team to 5-5 on the season. The 2-0 start in conference play—which began with a 2-1 triumph over Lipscomb on Friday night— matches KSU’s best since the 2010 season, assuring the Owls at least a share of first place in the conference after opening weekend.
Frost’s performance on Sunday marked the steady progress she has shown since being sidelined early in the season with nagging injuries. The redshirt junior forward played a season-high 68 minutes as a substitute and started the second half, the first time she’s been on the field at the beginning of a half this season.
“I’ve been kind of plagued with injuries at the start of the season,” Frost said. “But it’s really nice to get back out there.”
Frost came into the match in the 23rd minute and got the Owls on the scoreboard just 12 minutes later. Freshman Suzanne Arafa lofted the ball over the NKU defense and into the path of Frost, whose cool finish gave the Owls a lead they never looked close to relinquishing. She would double the score in the 68th minute when she took advantage of a defensive miscue from NKU to chip the ball over Norse goalkeeper Tanner Ruberg.
KSU dominated from the kickoff, defying the traditional slow-down that comes when playing the second match of the weekend. NKU struggled to maintain possession and were often overwhelmed by KSU in the center of midfield, with Arafa, Nicole Calder, and Hannah Churchill giving one of their most cohesive performances as a unit.
Defensively, Alma Gardarsdottir and Kelsey Barr partnered effectively and only allowed three shots, none of which troubled Olivia Sturdivant’s goal. The freshman keeper was not forced to make any saves but handled every threat confidently. The steady play centrally allowed the fullbacks, Strickland and Brittney Reed, to join in the attack and provide even more passing options.
King’s appreciation of his team’s performance is especially magnified because it means the Owls took advantage of starting conference play in the comfort of their home stadium.
“If you start off and you have a couple of home games, you need to make the most of them,” King said. “If you don’t, it becomes an uphill battle.”
With its five-match stretch of playing at home complete, KSU hits the road for the next two weekends. The Owls will go to Spartanburg, SC, on Friday for a meeting with USC Upstate before traveling to Johnson City, TN, for a Sunday afternoon match with East Tennessee State.
Not even the consistently optimistic head coach Rob King could find any positives after the KSU soccer team’s 3-0 loss to visiting Samford on Tuesday, Sept. 17th.
The Owls never really challenged in defeat and dropped to 2-5 on the season and 0-2 at home. Head coach Rob King was unable to single out what he thinks the answer might be, instead condemning the performance as a whole.
“It would be nice if it was just one area that I thought needed fixing, but it wasn’t,” King said. “It was rampant all the way through the team.”
Slow starts have been common for King’s team this year, and Tuesday was no exception, as there was little room for error against a Samford squad that had already defeated three SEC teams this season. The Owls fell behind 1-0 when Samford forward Amanda Abbott ran onto a through ball in the 41st minute and finished calmly past KSU goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant, who had come off her line.
“We spoke about making some adjustments at halftime,” King said. “But when we got out, we really didn’t make those adjustments very well.”
Abbott, a Lassiter High School graduate, would score again in the 52nd minute in remarkably similar fashion to her first goal. The KSU defensive line was again beaten and a lobbed pass was enough to spring Abbott free to dribble past the onrushing Sturdivant to score. A third Samford goal was added on a free header by Trine Taule in the 73rd minute that capped a night of disorganization for the KSU defense.
“Defensively, we didn’t really communicate,” King said. “Our lines weren’t tight enough.”
The attack did not fare any better, posting their fourth scoreless match of the season. As a unit, the KSU forwards continued their scoreless drought that has continued since Katrina Frost scored in the Clayton State exhibition. Freshman Maggie Gaughan had two of the Owls’ three shots on goal, but Samford goalkeeper Katie Peters was only forced to make three relatively simple saves in the shutout. The front three was generally far too isolated, and attacking midfielder Suzanne Arafa struggled to influence the game without consistent passing options. The veteran Frost suffered from the same problem in her 39 minutes of action at forward, a season high for her.
KSU had better luck on Sunday, as freshman Cobb Co. product Maggie Gaughan (Hillgrove HS) scored the Owls’ two goals in a 2-0 win over Troy at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Gaughan scored her first career goal in the 17th minute when she managed to control the ball and maneuver through the defense while the goalie had left the goal.
She would score again in the 65th minute, via an assist from Brittney Reed, when she headed in a cross from feet away.
“She’s doing very well for us, first of all,” King said of Gaughan. “Coming in and starting things as our freshman forwards are is a big ask.” King didn’t just applaud Gaughan, but all of his freshman. “They’re doing well, they’re getting better with each game, and they’re putting in a lot of extra time outside of training sessions as well,” King said. “It paid off for us today.”
Nicole Calder was the only other Owl to have a shot on goal, while also having three shots, followed by two from Monica Herrera and freshman Suzanna Arafa.
KSU outshot Troy 12 to five, while also recording its third shutout of the season.
“It was a match that we dominated from start to finish,” King said. “It was nice for our girls. We worked on a couple of things defensively through the week.”
The Owls are now 3-5 on the year and will open their conference schedule on Friday at home against the Lipscomb Bisons.
KSU will also host A-Sun foe Northern Kentucky Sunday at 1 p.m.
Fifth Third Bank Stadium’s celebratory atmosphere and football helmet-related pep were not enough to lift KSU’s soccer team over Mississippi on Friday night in the Owls’ 2013 home opener.
The Owls (2-4) dropped a 2-1 decision to the visiting team from the Southeastern Conference in front of a crowd of 1,883. Mississippi’s Mandy McCalla scored the winner on a controversial 70th minute penalty kick that KSU could never recover from.
“It rolled their way on a very rough penalty decision,” KSU head coach Rob King said of the call that would prove to be the game’s decisive moment.
The Owls were pressed from the opening kick by the visitors, who spent most of the opening 20 minutes attacking. The Rebels never quite looked comfortable in front of goal, though, and badly missed a few early chances. Mississippi’s inability to capitalize on opportunities gave KSU a chance to assert itself: two long-distance shots, from Nicole Calder and Alma Gardarsdottir, that hit the crossbar within minutes of each other jolted the Owls into control of the match.
Scoring was opened in the 57th minute when Owls forward Shannon Driscoll was upended in the Rebels’ penalty area, prompting referee Grant Leland to award the game’s first penalty kick to KSU. Freshman midfielder Suzanne Arafa stepped up confidently and beat Mississippi goalkeeper Kelly McCormick to score her first goal of the season and of her KSU career.
Mississippi’s Olivia Harrison leveled the game at 1-1 just a minute later, cutting infield past the KSU defense and sneaking a shot just inside freshman goalkeeper Olivia Sturdivant’s near post. The goal stunned the home crowd that was not even completely finished celebrating Arafa’s spot kick.
With 20 minutes remaining and the score tied 1-1, a Brittney Reed foul gave the Rebels a free kick just outside the KSU penalty area, one that Sturdivant saved in acrobatic fashion. Leland, however, was more interested in the Mississippi player that appeared to incidentally stumble in front of goal, and he awarded a penalty that could—at its most diplomatic—be called contentious. McCalla sent Sturdivant the wrong way and gave the Rebels a lead they would spend the rest of the game protecting.
The frustration from the penalty did not prevent King from his usual ability to find positives from his team’s performance. Even in defeat, he praised the Owls for taking the game to the opponent, something the team found difficult in previous matches against major-conference sides this year.
“It’s great to see us on the other side of the ball do so well attacking a good team,” King said. “We’re real pleased with where we are right now.”
Consistency could have contributed to the performance, as King’s lineup kept roughly the same shape from the Georgia State game and only featured three changes. Kelsey Barr and Elizabeth Johnson slotted into the starting defense, while Monica Herrera replaced Casey Kincheloe at one of the forward spots. Katrina Frost was not fit enough to play from the start, but the redshirt junior did manage to play 21 minutes at forward, her first regular season action.
The five-game stretch at home continues for the Owls on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Samford of the Southern Conference. “Samford is a really strong team,” King said of the midweek opponent. “They’ve had some great wins over SEC opponents this year, so that should be a great game.”The team will then wrap up the non-conference schedule with a Sunday game against Troy, scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m.