A thrilling win in the opening round of the SAC tournament earned the Lady Eagles their shot at the No. 7 team in the country.
They fell just short of the upset.
Oklahoma City defeated JBU 1-0 in the second round of the SAC tournament, ending the Lady Eagles season.
“Oklahoma City played better yesterday than they did the first time that we played them,” said head coach Scott Marksberry. “We did what we needed … to get a result. The bounce just didn’t go our way.”
Oklahoma City’s lone goal came from junior forward Meghan McMahon in the 76th minute. McMahon leads the Stars with 24 goals this season, sixth best in the NAIA.
“She’s a dangerous player … she plays well and she’s a finisher,” said Marksberry. “She had two good chances … and she put one away.”
Oklahoma City will play for the SAC championship tonight against Oklahoma Baptist.
In the first round the Eagles played rival Rogers State (Ark.).
The teams played even through two overtime periods before the Lady Eagles won in the shootout, 4-3.
Sophomore defenseman Rachel Harris converted JBU’s sixth and final penalty kick to put the pressure on junior Hillcats defender Mikella Schexnider to make her shot.
The Eagles clinched the win when her shot missed the net.
“The girls were ecstatic,” said Marksberry. “I was just relieved the penalty kicks were over. I can’t stand penalty kicks.”
The Eagles were able to get to the shootout thanks to the play of freshman goalkeeper Kristen Morency, who had 11 saves, and senior midfielder Cheyenne Padgett, who scored the Eagles’ lone regulation goal in the 42nd minute.
“The second half of that game was the best I’ve seen Kristen play,” said Marksberry. “She made two really big, high level saves in the game.”
Morency finished the season ranked in the top 50 in the NAIA in goals per game, allowing an average of only 1.05 in her freshman season.
The Lady Eagles were able to shut down a physical and aggressive Rogers State team. Marksberry said the team had a special game plan for RSU, playing in a new formation for the first time all year. Rogers State plays with a sweeper, a defender who stays back and sends the ball deep instead of looking for a pass. The Lady Eagles countered with what Marksberry called a ‘shadow,’ having a player pressuring the sweeper at all times, even on offense.
“It frustrated them,” said Marksberry. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Despite the loss, Coach Miglarese had nothing but positive things to say about the Lady Eagles season.
“As young as our team is, I don’t think any of us knew what to expect,” said Marksberry. “Whatever anyone did expect, we exceeded those expectations. The girls played better together than we would have on paper.”
The Lady Eagles finished the season with a 10-5-1 record overall and a 5-4-1 record against conference opponents.
The Lady Eagles will lose seniors Faith Thurman and Cheyenne Padgett to graduation this year.
Thurman was out all season with medical issues.
“She handled that with such class,” said Marksberry. Instead, she stepped into the role of goalkeeper’s coach for Morency and junior Alysan Burgbacher.
“Our goalkeepers were better at the end of the year than the beginning of the year,” Markberry said. “A lot of that had to do with Faith’s work with them.”
Padgett was a leader of the team, according to Marksberry, and also played a key role in the offense.
“Cheyenne was the engine of our team. She scored goals at big times over the course of the season,” he said. “Everything went through her on the attack. When Cheyenne was having good games our team was having good games.”
Marksberry still expects more depth and experience on next year’s team, however.
“The most important thing going forward is that we continue to build the culture … that we really started to create this year and that the girls continue to buy in,” he said.