Soccer Takes on Oklahoma in Final Non-Conference Match

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Soccer Takes on Oklahoma in Final Non-Conference Match

BATON ROUGE — The 11th-ranked LSU soccer team will put the finishing touches on its preparation for Southeastern Conference play this weekend as it wraps up its non-conference slate with a trip to Norman, Okla., to take on the Oklahoma Sooners on Friday at 7 p.m.

Friday’s match marks the first time the sides will meet on the pitch since playing to a 2-2 draw on Oct. 3, 1999, at the OU Soccer Complex in Norman.

The Tigers, who hold a 1-0-1 advantage in the all-time series, are off to a perfect 5-0 start this fall and have climbed to as high as No. 11 in the national rankings this week. With a win on Friday night, the side would set a school record with its sixth straight win to start the season, a feat never before accomplished in the 14-year history of the LSU soccer program.

LSU is ranked No. 11 in the latest Soccer America Top 25, while they also carry a No. 15 ranking in the Soccer Buzz Top 30 and a No. 17 ranking in the Soccer Times Top 25.

Despite a 1-6 record to start the season, Oklahoma has played well in recent weeks and is coming off a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford on Sunday afternoon after leading at the halftime break. The Sooners will look to snap a four-game losing skid.

“This is a big game for our team because it is the last chance we have to prepare for what is going to be a difficult SEC schedule,” said LSU head coach Brian Lee. “Oklahoma is a program that is really starting to make some positive steps forward with first-year head coach Nicole Nelson, and we’re going to have to match intensity with intensity when we kick it off tomorrow night.

“It’s always a challenge in this sport when playing on the road, and we expect it to be no different this weekend. We’re looking forward to a great game tomorrow night.”

Oklahoma is led by a dynamic attack with sophomore striker Whitney Palmer providing the spark up top. Palmer, who is a member of the U-23 U.S. National Team Player Pool, leads the way with four goals on the season after being named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team a year ago.

The Tigers will counter with a potent attack of their own as they have outscored their opponents by a 17-2 margin in their five wins this season. The side ended a 13-day layoff on Sunday with an impressive 7-0 win over Centenary to extend its school record home unbeaten streak to 14 games.

After scoring her second career hat trick on Sunday, junior Michelle Makasini has taken over the SEC lead with five goals and 11 points on the year. She is also ranked among the nation’s Top 10 scorers this season as she is currently No. 6 in the country scoring 1.25 goals per game and No. 7 nationally scoring 2.75 points per game in four appearances.

Junior All-American Rachel Yepez follows closely behind Makasini for the team lead with a total of three goals and 10 points in five starts. Fellow junior and Hermann Trophy candidate Malorie Rutledge has added eight points of her own, including six assists to rank No. 2 nationally with 1.20 assists per game from her position on the right wing.

Freshman goalkeeper Mo Isom has performed like a seasoned veteran in goal in her rookie season while posting three shutouts and a sparkling 0.40 goals against average to rank No. 1 in the SEC.

After battling the Sooners in their final non-conference tilt on Friday night, the Tigers will resume their five-game road swing next weekend as they begin the defense of their SEC West crown with the start of league play. LSU will take on Mississippi State on Sept. 26 in Starkville followed by a match against Ole Miss on Sept. 28 in Oxford.