Kats seeded second in SLC tourney

History was made as the buzzer rang for the last time at Pritchett Field for the 2014 Sam Houston State soccer season Sunday.

As the Bearkats squeezed out a 2-0 win over Nicholls State, SHSU clinched the second seed and a first-round bye in the Southland Conference tournament.

“The biggest bonus is the day off,” head coach Tom Brown said. “Now it’s a new season. We’re going to have to play a game, and the winner is going to move on.”

The 8-2-1 record and second seeding is the best finish for SHSU soccer in its short history.

Last season, the Bearkats knocked off the Colonels in the first round of the SLC tournament to advance to the semifinals against Stephen F. Austin State. SHSU saw its season come to an end when the Ladyjacks took a 2-1 win over the Kats.

With the first round bye this season, SHSU will await the winner between Houston Baptist and Southeastern Louisiana for its semifinal match. The Kats tied HBU 0-0 on Friday and defeated the Lions 1-0 the game before the Huskies.

The Kats headed into last match of the regular season needing an equal or better result than HBU in its match against SELU. The games were played simultaneously Sunday.

HBU topped the Lions 2-1 in comeback fashion, so SHSU needed to get the victory over Nicholls State.

After 45 minutes of play Sunday, the Bearkats were even at nil with the Colonels.

It was an even back-and-forth match until Nicholls’ forward Lauren O’Brien received a straight red card for retaliating against sophomore defender Megan Bennett early in the second half. Bennett was on the ground after a foul from O’Brien in the Bearkats’ defensive third.

“I think there was a little more space for us to play,” Bennett said. “I was worried just a little, because I think sometimes a team that plays with 10 plays a little harder. I think it opened up the space, and we were a better technical team.”

As Nicholls was forced to only play with 10 on the field, SHSU began to see a spark upfront. In the 67th minute, senior midfielder Madison Bible was able to break the tie and score her third goal of the season when she got a touch on a firing shot from teammate junior midfielder Mariah Titus.

Bennett then added the nail on the coffin in the 84th minute when she finished a ball off a Bible corner kick. Bennett said she knew she had to find a way to make up for a missed penalty kick she had in the first half.

“I knew after [missing the penalty] I was like ‘I have to make up for that’,” Bennett said. “Whether that was saving a goal, scoring a goal, I got to get it back somehow.”

Bennett got the start on the backline alongside freshman center back Caitlin Schwartz and senior outside backs Ashley Fluty and Megan Manis. The four provided junior goalkeeper Kylie Hambleton with her third consecutive clean sheet.

“The backline was one of the places we had to do the most work as far as trying to get players coordinated and new players in the mix back there,” Brown said. “I think that group has gelled together. I think they are confident because Kylie is playing well right now.”

SHSU will play the winner of the Colonels and Lions on Friday at 4 p.m. in Beaumont for the semifinals of the SLC tournament.

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